By Mylo Fisherman
The Parental Rights in Education bill (HB 1557 or SB 1834) passed the House Education and Employment Committee in January. This bill prohibits classroom discussion about “sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels or in a specified manner.”
Due to the nature of this bill, it was given the nickname “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
According to the bill, parents are authorized to take legal action against their children’s school district if they believe any of its policies violates their “fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children in a specified manner.” Additionally, they are entitled to an “award of injunctive relief, damages, and reasonable attorney fees and court costs” if they do decide to pursue legal action.
Due to a heated debate over the original bill, an amendment was made. This amendment states that if a school finds out that a student is a “part of the LGBTQIA+ community and is withholding this information from their parents,” the school principal or their designee “shall develop a plan, using all available governmental resources, to disclose such information within six weeks.”
New Florida bill has the ability to erase LGBTQIA+ history & education from their curriculum.
The new amendment helped to create a protocol for school leaders to tell parents about their child’s identity in a “safe, supportive and judgment-free environment.”
Some people believe that this bill is beneficial to students and the overall school community. Florida State Representative Joe Harding, who first introduced the bill, stated that “this bill is about defending the most awesome responsibility a person can have: being a parent.” He added, “That job can only be given to you by the above.”
Florida State Senator Dennis Baxley believes that “some discussions are for (having) with your parents.” He adds, “and I think when you start having sexual-type discussions with children, you’re entering a very dangerous zone. Your awareness should pop up right away, this isn’t teaching.”
Other people believe that this bill is detrimental to LGBTQIA+ youth.
Dr. Traci Levy, director of Gender and Sexuality Studies at Adelphi, said, “The only reason to propose a bill like this is to stigmatize LGBTQ people by sending a message that issues that relate to them or their identities are taboo. I’m unequivocally against bills like this.”
Lena Demas, president of Adelphi’s Future Teachers Association, said, “I do not believe gender and sexuality are concepts too large for children especially if they are exposed in digestible ways. Lots of people think these discussions are trying to indoctrinate their children but I believe they are giving them a toolbox to understand themselves and those around them. If we try to limit or censor these conversations students may be more afraid to express themselves or not understand what they are going through.”
Sam Ames, Adelphi director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project, said, “This bill will erase tongue talk of LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face.”
They added that, “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”
To take action on this bill go to https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/representatives and click on the representative you wish to contact and let them know how you feel about the bill.