Tennessee may be on its way to banning teaching about homosexuality in public schools before ninth grade.

Last week, a committee in the Tennessee state senate passed a bill that would not allow elementary or middle schools to "provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality," according to Knoxnews.com.

The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Stacey Campfield, tried to pass a version of the bill six years ago, according to On Top magazine. The magazine reported last week that supporters of the bill say the bill is "about promoting age-appropriate curriculum."

According to the bill, "Human sexuality is a complex subject with societal, scientific, psychological and historical implications; those implications are best understood by children with sufficient maturity to grasp their complexity."

But Time reported on Monday that gay-rights activists feel the bill is a "form of discrimination, especially as it bars teachers from talking about gay issues or sexuality even with students who identify as gay or have gay parents." The legislation has even been deemed the "don't say gay" bill.

Yet at the same time Tennessee is discussing banning the discussion of homosexuality before ninth grade, California lawmakers are considering mandating that gay history be taught in schools, according to an article in the Deseret News earlier this month.

The California bill sponsor told The New York Times last week that the bill would help students understand homosexuals better and thus accept them more fully.

"It is very basic to me that people dislike and fear that with which we are less familiar," he told the paper.

A 2004 study found that most parents in the U.S. believe the topic of homosexuality should be a part of curriculum in schools, but that they want it to be done in a neutral way, according to a study conducted by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Only 8 percent of those questioned said schools should teach that homosexuality is acceptable.

In Utah, schools are prohibited from advocating homosexuality, according to the state's Curriculum in the Public Schools.

EMAIL: slenz@desnews.com