On Monday, February 7th, at a roundtable in South Florida, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis voiced his support for the controversial Parental Rights in Education bill, which has been dubbed by many critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill. Under this bill, the discussion of sexual orientations as well as gender identity will be prohibited in the state’s primary schools. According to Florida Republican Senator Dennis Baxley, who co-sponsored the bill, it wouldn’t ban any spontaneous discussions about LGBTQ topics, but rather ban districts from incorporating them into school curriculums. “Some discussions are for with your parents. And I think when you start opening sexual-type discussions with children, you’re entering a very dangerous zone,” explained Baxley to lawmakers in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday.
DeSantis told reporters at the event on Monday how it’s “entirely inappropriate” for teachers to be talking to a student about gender identity, with some, according to DeSantis, going as far as saying things like “Don’t worry, don’t pick your gender” and having “secret” classroom lessons. “Schools need to be teaching kids to read, to write. They need to teach them science, history.” asserted Desantis, “We need more civics and understanding of the U.S. Constitution, what makes our country unique, all those basic stuff.” The bill had first been proposed a month ago, and this was the first time that the governor had signaled support for the bill. As of Tuesday, the state’s education committee has moved forward with the law which will now travel to the appropriations committee.
Despite the bill’s numerous supporters, there are just as many (including the Biden Administration) who vote against the bill, saying how it could be hurtful for LGBTQ kids and teachers’ mental health as they might feel like they don’t have the right to talk about themselves to fellow students and educators. According to a survey done in 2021 by an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention group known as The Trevor Group, about 42% of surveyed LGBTQ kids said that they had seriously contemplated committing suicide last year. “Every parent hopes that our leaders will ensure their children’s safety, protection, and freedom,” as said in a statement released by the White House, “Today, conservative politicians in Florida rejected those basic values by advancing legislation that is designed to target and attack the kids who need support the most – LGBTQI+ students, who are already vulnerable to bullying and violence just for being themselves.” “The Biden-Harris Administration will continue speaking out against harmful anti-LGBTQI+ bills and taking steps to protect our nation’s students.”
However, Florida isn’t the only state in America to have passed a law like the Parental Rights in Education Bill. Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi have all done the same. Moreover, as stated by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Tennesse, Montana, and Arkansas have all also passed laws that allowed parents to remove students from any courses that mention sexual orientation and/or gender identity. In contrast, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, and Oregon have all passed laws that require state curriculums to be inclusive of all students, including LGBTQ.