Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill Passes


Ian Dahl, Contributor

Should schools talk about sexual orientation or gender identities in their classrooms? On Tuesday, March 8, 2022, Florida passed their controversial “Parental Rights in Education” bill, House Bill 1557, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by those criticising the Florida Senate, which would restrict schools and teachers from discussing topics relating to sexual orientation or gender identities in their classrooms.

The “Don’t Say Gay” bill specifically targets Kindergarten classes through 3rd grade and prevents classroom instruction on “sexual orientation or gender identity” or “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards”, according the recently passed bill. Additionally, the bill allows parents to sue or bring up civil cases to schools that discuss such topics to their kids and any potential infractions from the classrooms. The bill also gives the right to school districts and requires that they notify the parents of students about any potential change in attitude or physical, mental, or emotional healthiness. 

Advocates of the bill believe that the bill will give more power to parents over schools and will limit the amount of influence that schools have over their students. Florida state Representative, Joe Harding, a Republican co-sponsor of the bill, said that the bill will give parents in Florida a greater influence over their children’s education in the classrooms, he said, “We have a choice to empower parents in Florida or we have a choice to empower school districts. I’m asking you to side with the side of parents in Florida.” Joe Harding also previously said that the bill’s main purpose was to prevent and discourage school faculty from asking young kids confusing questions about their sexuality and gender identity without the inclusion of their parents.

Critics of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill believe that it is wrong to restrict speech about LGBTQ issues in classrooms and limit what students are allowed to discuss about with school officials. The critics believe that by limiting discussion about sexual orientation and gender identities, students with issues may be too afraid to reach out to others or school staff because they might fear about their parents being notified. Additionally, they are concerned that the stigmatization of LGBTQ children will be further enhanced, leading to the isolation or mistreatment of those groups of children. They also believe that the bill would prevent discussions from coming up about gender identities or sexual orientation if questions from the students arise and that the history of the LGBTQ community would be removed from the schools’ curriculum. Florida state Representative, Anna Eskamani, a democratic opponent of the recently passed bill, believes the bill is “homophobic and transphobic, bigoted and discriminatory,” and that the bill “feeds into a lie that kids become gay or trans from inclusive schools and that being LBGTQ+ is dangerous and or perverted.” Additionally, Anna Eskamani also said, “This bill is dangerous. This bill tells kids and educators that if they are gay or come out or come from an LGBTQ+ family that they better not saying anything about it. They better not let anyone find out or we’ll out you and put you in harm’s way.”