Tennessee House Passes Bill Restricting Flags In Public Schools

The Tennessee House passed a bill spearheaded by the Republican majority that would ban flag displays in public schools, seemingly in response to the growing number of pride flags on display in classrooms.

House Bill 1605 was passed in a 70-24 vote, sending the legislation to the Senate. The bill will force schools and employees not to display flags that aren’t the U.S. or state flag “anywhere students may see the object.”

The piece of legislation enforces the ban by permitting parents or guardians of students to sue over the display of flags within the school. Lawsuits could be extended to even other flags not listed within the contents of the bill.

State Rep. Gino Bulso (R), the sponsor of the bill, stated that he crafted the bill after numerous parents contacted his office with concerns about “political flags” being on display in classrooms. He also firmly stated that displaying Pride flags within classrooms does not apply to First Amendment rights for school employees.

“What we’re doing is making sure parents are the ones who are allowed to instill in their children the values they want to instill,” Bulso said.

Despite the strong majority in the vote, proceedings for the legislation could have gone more smoothly. Republicans cut the debate short, prompting Rep. Justin Jones (D) to verbally confront House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R), who claimed that the speaker was ignoring requests to speak.

Jones was ultimately voted out of order which stopped his comments.

Even before the commotion among House members, there was unrest in the chamber. Two people who were at the proceeding to oppose the bill were removed for continuously talking over the process.

“I am proud when I walk into the public schools in my city, to see the LGBT flag in the classrooms, proudly put up by teachers who understand the suffering that many of their students go through,” stated state Rep. Jason Powell (D). “We should be welcoming and celebrating our students, not hating on them.”

Changes to the bill are expected to be made in the Senate, which is likely to add more restrictions on who could file a lawsuit.