EDITORIAL OF THE STAFF: Florida Attempts to Legalize Homophobia in Schools with “Don’t Say Gay Bill”

Who Will Be Next? Who Is Safe?

Casey Creutz, Co-Editorial Director, Junior

LGBTQ+ students exist. No law, no bill, and no rule can change that fact. Yet, the new Florida legislature is attempting to erase the voice, and existence, of LGBTQ+ in schools across the state. Republican governor Ron DeSantis is currently toying with the idea of ratifying this bill that passed in the state House in February of 2022. The ramifications of this bill would be incredibly detrimental to the progress

The Florida bill, officially given the vague title “The Parental Rights in Education Bill” has been called “The Don’t Say Gay Bill” by critics because the vague contents don’t seem to be applicable to anything but harming LGTBQ+ children and adolescents. According to the legislature, ratification would ban “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity” for students in kindergarten through third grade, but also teaching any topics deemed “non-age appropriate,”  which could apply to any age, and allow parents to sue schools and teachers for doing so.

Conservatives in Florida are trying to market this bill as a simple age limit for certain topics, something they claim is a normal measure to take to protect parent-student rights. Regardless of what the actual intentions of this bill are, discriminatory or not, it perpetuates and encourages the awful, and antiquated idea that LGTBQ+ people, and any discussion of them, is predatory and inappropriate by nature. This is simply not true, and to write so into law is setting the country back years.

Children go to school to learn, the truth of today’s day and age is sexuality and identity are no longer something people want or should have to hide, and the United States has taken great strides toward becoming a more accepting place. Both the prejudice and the progress we have made is part of this country’s history and banning them from schools as topics aren’t protecting children, it’s vilifying the LGBTQ+ community. It is not inappropriate for children to learn that some children in their class are transgender, or have two parents, it’s just teaching kids about people, and modern facts of life. To imply that discussion of the LGBTQ+ community is not “PG”, is to imply that there is something inappropriate or inherently wrong with the community, which is undoubtedly homophobic, transphobic, and inherently discriminatory.

Another issue with this bill is the uncomfortable middle ground it places Florida’s teachers in. Teachers are rarely asked to interpret whether material is “developmentally appropriate” and even more rarely asked to determine whether the identity of students and student family members and friends is appropriate. It is unfair to write into law a bill that would make teachers and schools liable for lawsuits when the law does not even explicitly state what ages, and what grades are allowed to discuss sexual and gender identity. For example, a small child with two parents of the same gender may very well do something so innocent, like sharing a family memory with the class, or drawing a family picture. It leaves a teacher wondering if they are now at risk, simply by letting this child talk about their parents. In an article written by Sarah Longwell, a prominent conservative lawyer, who is openly gay, she talks about being a conservative as well as a lesbian mother. “Especially for young kids, their families are their whole world. My children talk about their families in class. They bring home pictures they drew of us,” Longwell said. She explains perfectly through personal experience how this issue is non-partisan and asks members of her party to consider the effect this supposed child and parent-oriented bill has on families like her own in her article for the New York Times.

Repression is not the answer to handling heated political debates, or heavy topics if one even considers human rights to be political or sensitive. Sheltering children from things that are becoming larger and more accepted parts of our society will only ensure ignorance, and foster discrimination and Americans must stand up against policies like this one that aim to send us back in time. It is freedom we hold dear, and the education of our youth is a stepping stone to making progress and maintaining a freely expressive future.