Amendment precluding school counselors from working with LGBT youth not based in fact
An amendment before the Tennessee state legislature would bar school counselors and teachers from discussing sexual orientation with students. Tennessee State Rep. John Ragan, a sponsor of the amendment, says that Tennessee hires and pays counselors to advise on career and academic issues exclusively. Eliminating, for the moment, the moral and ethical implications of ignoring a student’s emotional concerns- this is simply not factual.
Tennessee code requires school counselors to include social and personal problems in their guidance. Former State Senator Stacy Campfield, a proponent of similar legislation and now a state senator, goes further in saying that school counselors are not trained to deal with such “mental health” issues. Whether through willful ignorance or just plain ignorance, this is also factually inaccurate. School counselors are trained in the domains of career, academic and personal/social and required by both Tennessee law and the American School Counselor Association to advise students in all three domains.
The amendment before the legislature would require school personnel to refer students with questions concerning their sexuality to outside psychiatric care. This would represent a major shift in both the current practices and legal requirements of Tennessee school counselors. LGBT youth have a higher incidence of suicide and self-harm; they are in need of the services school counselors are trained for and required to give.
The amendment is factually flawed, and re-inserting morality into the equation it would ask school counselors to ignore at-risk students. Referring for outside care is costly and unobtainable for many families, and is simply an unrealistic requirement. I am confounded by the factual misstatements of Rep. Ragan and Senator Campfield and am left to believe that bigotry and fear are operating in place of the best interest of a vulnerable population of children.