(Trends Wide Español) — Florida’s Senate, controlled by the Republican Party, approved the bill HB 1557, titled Rights of Parents in Education and known as “Don’t Say Gay” (“Do not say gay”, in Spanish). But why is it so controversial?
On Tuesday, March 8, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill passed with 22 votes in favor and 17 against, which would prohibit teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms. Now, the controversial bill has been sent to the desk of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who has been outspoken in his support for the measure.
If approved by DeSantis, a staunch conservative who has a history of supporting anti-LGBTQ measures in the state, the bill would go into effect in July. His office declined Trends Wide’s request for comment on the Senate’s passage, instead pointing to comments he made last week on the legislation.
What does the bill propose?
According to the legislation, school districts “may not encourage discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity at the primary grade levels or in a manner that is inappropriate for the age or development of students.” However, it is not clear what would be considered “age” or “developmental” appropriate.
In addition, the measure would require districts to “adopt procedures to notify a student’s parent if there is a change in the student’s services or supervision related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or welfare.”
Republican state Rep. Joe Harding, a co-sponsor of the bill in the Florida House of Representatives, previously told Trends Wide that the bill is intended to discourage school personnel from asking about a student’s gender identity or pronouns without including their parents in conversation.
What do the opponents say?
Opponents have argued that the ban would have a negative impact on an already marginalized community. They have pointed to data showing that LGBTQ youth report lower rates of attempted suicide when they have access to LGBTQ-affirming spaces.
In addition, advocates for the LGBTQ community argue that it could lead to some students’ parents learning about their sexual orientation or identity without the student’s knowledge or consent. They also fear the bill will restrict students’ ability to speak confidentially with school counselors, some of whom are the only available mental health resource for students.
Schools are already often hostile environments for LGBTQ children in the United States: Nearly 33% of LGBTQ students ages 13 to 21 said they missed one day of school in the course of a month because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable, and More than 77% said they avoided going to school extracurricular events because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable, according to the most recent National Survey of School Climate released by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). English) in 2019.
According to the GLSEN report, 98.8% of LGBTQ students said they heard “gay” used in a negative way, and more than 95% of them heard homophobic slurs at school.
Opponents of the bill denounced a piece of legislation that allows parents to file civil lawsuits against the school district for any possible violation of its rules, arguing that this would open the door for educators to face a bombardment. endless litigation. The legislation has drawn scrutiny from Democrats in the state and elsewhere, including from President Joe Biden, who vowed last month to protect LGBTQ youth from such measures.
The reaction of the students
Members of Generation Z (defined as people born between 1997 and 2012) have for weeks led major demonstrations and school walkouts in protest of the bill.
The teens have traveled to Tallahassee, the capital of Florida, to meet with lawmakers and plead their cases against the legislation.
“We wanted to show our government that this is not going to stop,” said Will Larkins, a Florida teenager who organized a mass walkout at his central Florida high school. “The people are the ones in power [sic] and what they are doing does not represent us, especially marginalized groups.”
Students across the state have walked out of their classrooms in protest of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill this month.
“We will not be silent,” high school student CJ Walden told the The Miami Herald. “We will always exist. Even if the law goes into effect.”
With information from Scottie Andrew, Trends Wide’s Devan Cole.