Don’t Say Gay Bill

Dont Say Gay Bill

Neely Burns, Editor

The legislation dubbed as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” in Florida has caused a great deal of controversy during its passage. Originally called the Parental Rights in Education Bill, this bill has been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” due to its opponents’ beliefs that it limits gay rights for Florida students. Although this bill includes a great deal of detail regarding parental rights in the classroom, for the sake of this article we will focus primarily on the supposed anti-gay sentiments.
The portion of the bill which opponents primarily take issue with reads, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” Essentially, this means that in kindergarten through third grade, students can be taught nothing about gender identity or sexual orientation, and in later grades they can be taught it but only in a regulated manner (this manner is kept vague). In addition, the bill later reads, that part of the bill “… does not prohibit a school district from adopting procedures that permit school personnel to withhold [information about students’ mental, emotional, physical health or well being] from a parent if a reasonably prudent person would believe that disclosure would result in abuse, abandonment, or neglect.” This portion of the bill essentially states that school districts can’t ban teachers from withholding private information about a student’s life in each of the listed sectors so long as there is reasonable evidence that telling the parents would cause a student harm.
So, now knowing what the bill directly says, where does the controversy arise? The supportive side can be summed up well by former Hawaii Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard, who states, “Now we should all the support the Parental Rights in Education bill that recently passed in Florida, which very simply bans government and government schools from indoctrinating woke sexual values in or schools to a captive audience.” What she means by this is that the bill protects both children from being exposed to what some consider radical ideas and allows the children’s parent’s to regulate what their children learn in these developmental years. Extending “Parental Right in Education” is the primary purpose of this bill, so those who support this extension tend to echo Gabbard’s point of view.
However, many are concerned about how this bill affects the safety and education of queer children in Florida. The Trevor Project, an organization which operates as a suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ young people, says that the provisions in the bill, “…appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements, which could effectively require teachers to ‘out’ LGBTQ students to their legal guardians without their consent, regardless of whether they are supportive.” They and other opponents of the bill fear that the vague wording such as “reasonably prudent person” will give parents too much power if it comes to suing teachers for keeping a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity a secret. “Outing students to their families and peers can be dangerous for the individual’s mental health and safety in general. You don’t always know how a person’s parents are going to react,” says an anonymous Thunderbird student.
Some Florida educators who oppose the bill are planning to combat it in a rather unconventional way. A letter to be sent home to parents from teachers has been drafted and shared to the internet, stating, “To be in accordance with [the bill], I will no longer be referring to your student with gendered pronouns. All students will be referred to as ‘they’ or ‘them.’ I will no longer use a gendered title such as ‘Mr.’ or ‘Mrs.’ or make any references to my husband/wife in the classroom. From now on I will be using the non-gendered title ‘Mx.’” They also plan on eliminating all stories which make reference to gender or gender roles from their curriculum. Essentially, these teachers are intending to combat this bill by following it to a tee. It is unclear what will happen from this, but we shall soon see.
Clearly, this divisive bill will not soon be forgotten, and its effects will be long-lived. Whether or not one agrees with it or not, you cannot argue that the effects it has on Florida will not be long-lasting for students, parents, teachers, and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. Stay safe.