Florida’s controversial Parental Rights in Education Act — better known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law — was already a bleak example of legislative attacks on LGBTQ+ rights in America. Unfortunately, it’s about to get even darker in the Sunshine State: Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is now moving to broaden the law to apply to all grades.
As the Associated Press reported, the DeSantis administration proposed this sinister plan, which directly contradicts previous comments about the law’s scope, earlier this week. Since it’s an administrative proposal, it won’t require legislative approval.
The proposal was put forward by the state Education Department and is scheduled for a vote next month before the Florida Board of Education, both of which are led by DeSantis appointees. So, bad news all around for LGBTQ+ Floridians.
Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law was passed last March and later signed into law by DeSantis himself. As the moniker suggests, it prohibits public school personnel and third parties from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in any capacity, all under the guise of protecting children from learning about “age-inappropriate” topics.
If teachers violate these terms, they can be sued by parents in the school district and risk losing their teaching license.
The law currently applies to kindergarten through Grade 3, although if DeSantis gets his way, it will soon encompass Grades 4–12, too. The only exceptions would be if instruction on LGBTQ+-related topics is required by state law or part of reproductive health education… which students can opt out of.
Beyond its blatant infringement on the right to freedom of speech, this law creates a hostile learning environment for LGBTQ+ youth throughout the Sunshine State. An estimated 1.9 million Americans ages 13–17 identify as LGBTQ+. These vulnerable youth are already disproportionately affected by bullying and mental health issues. The last thing they need is a law that criminalizes acknowledging their existence.
In a press statement, the advocacy group Equality Florida dubbed this proposed expansion a perversion of government power “to serve Ron DeSantis’s desperation to run for President”:
“After a year’s worth of gaslighting and assurances that the Don’t Say LGBTQ+ law was narrowly focused, the DeSantis Administration is now saying the quiet part out loud: They believe that it is never appropriate to acknowledge the existence of LGBTQ+ people, or our contributions to society, in schools. This time, the governor is placing the crosshairs squarely on individual educators, threatening their professional licenses for making mention of the LGBTQ+ community in any grade level. The Board of Education’s proposed rule would see more books with LGBTQ+ characters ripped from school shelves, more discussion of diverse families muzzled, and further character assassination of hardworking teachers in Florida.”
As White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre noted in a statement to AP, this law is “part of a disturbing and dangerous trend that we’re seeing across the nation” of legislation targeting LGBTQ+ people. This year alone, the ACLU is tracking a staggering 429 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in state legislatures, including 10 in Florida.
Many of these bills single out transgender and nonbinary youth, with conservative lawmakers aiming to eradicate their access to school sports, bathrooms that align with their gender identity, and/or gender affirming healthcare.
In the face of these explicitly anti-LGBTQ+ attacks, it’s easy to feel powerless or discouraged. However, there are some ways you can resist.
In an email to SheKnows, Brandon Wolf, Equality Florida’s press secretary, suggested emailing Florida Educator Commissioner Manny Diaz (firstname.lastname@example.org) to make your opposition to DeSantis’s proposal known. You can also amplify content from local organizations like Equality Florida, which directly serve the people who would be impacted by the Don’t Say Gay law’s expansion.
Before you go, check out these affordable mental health apps we love:
Leave a Comment