Florida, you have disappointed me once again. As if the LGBTQ+ community did not have enough to fear already, Florida legislation is adding a new law to ensure schools can no longer be a safe space for its students. We all know certain Florida government officials to be very controversial, but this absolutely takes the cake. The new legislation, if signed into law, will restrict primary schools from teaching students about sexual orientation and gender issues.
What is the Parental Rights in Education bill? The bill, commonly known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, is legislation passed by the Florida Senate’s Education Committee. Republican State Representative Joe Harding, originator of the bill, insists the bill is aimed to keep parents “in the know and involved on what’s going on” in their children’s classrooms. The bill is supported by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis claims the goal of education is specifically for children to learn STEM subjects and avoid any ideological disputes.
If that is the case, how can you expect the younger generations to have any idea what is going on in our country? Every day, people of the LGBTQ+ community fight for gender equality, as if basic human rights are unacceptable in America. It sounds like these claims are basically stating that children should have no rights until they get older, but we won’t teach them about those rights. Yet, older generations expect them to be well-educated and know all about current affairs…this is one of them, why can’t government officials see that?
Not only is this unfair to students but also teachers who want the best for their students. If passed, this legislation allows parents and guardians to take legal action against teachers if they fail to comply with the law. You heard that right, parents can sue teachers – who already do not make enough money – if they discuss sexual orientation or gender issues in class. However, before this was even an idea, parents had no issue sending their kids off to school every day with no knowledge of what their kid was going to learn that day. Harding recently made an amendment to the bill on February 13th that would require schools to “out” students to their parents if they identify as anything other than straight. They would be given six weeks to do so, however, Harding pulled the amendment days after various officials stated the danger that comes with this decision.
As ‘doomsday’ comes closer, many worry DeSantis will make the decision to sign the bill into law. The bill has recently been passed in Florida’s House of Representatives in a 69-47 vote and the Senate with a 22-17 vote. The bill now lands on DeSantis’s desk for him to pass or reject, which worries those in the LGBTQ+ community and its supporters as he has previously expressed his support for the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Supporters of the bill consider this a solution to conversation that is not “age-appropriate” for developing students and those who reject the idea of this bill wonder what is so inappropriate about discussions over gender issues and sexual orientation that could potentially help kids who wonder about their own identities.
If signed into law the bill will go into effect on July 1, while district school plans must be updated by June of 2023. This will affect the 2022-2023 school year. Many question why this is still an argument in 2022. Joe Saunders, Equality Florida Senior Political Director and first openly gay Floridian to be sworn in to Florida’s House of Representatives, pleads to not “erase our history” as it is always age-appropriate to talk about the existence of the LGBTQ+ community. In what seems to be an appeal to said community, an amendment was filed to “clarify” the bill and change the ban on “sexual orientation and gender identity” to “human sexuality or sexual activity.” The amendment, however, did not pass and quite frankly, seems like a last minute resort to avoid a community of people upset at the attempt to avoid discussion of an important topic in history.
This bill has caused outrage far past the Florida line. People everywhere, even the President of the United States, have expressed their discontent with the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill and are offering support to those apart of the LGBTQ+ community. The community’s history is an important discussion to be had with developing students, not discussing it with them only seems to do more harm to their future than good. The supporters of the bill are under the pretense that this bill allows parents to have more say over what their kids learn at school and is there to help, not harm. However, officials never had a problem with allowing teachers to have the say before now. This is just one more obstacle in the road for the LGBTQ+ community, but we will not stop fighting for equality and basic human rights.