Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Law: Damaging to LGBTQ+ Students, Parents, and Teachers

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the controversial “Parental Rights in Education” bill into law on Monday. The bill, dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, prohibits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through 3rd grade. The bill’s language states: “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”[1] Parents can sue school districts over violations.

The legislation also requires schools to notify parents of any health or support services provided to their kids in school and gives them an opportunity to deny the services on behalf of their children.

The new law further marginalizes LBGTQ+ communities and puts youth who identify as members of that community at risk. A CDC study, the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, shows that many LBGTQ+ young people are susceptible to higher health and suicide risks than their classmates.[2] The Trevor Project reports that “when those kids are given access to spaces that affirm their gender identity, they report lower rates of suicide attempts.”[3] Taking away a potentially safe space at school could lead to devastating results.

On Thursday, a group of LBGTQ+ advocates sued Florida and the DeSantis administration in federal court over the bill.[4] Lawyers representing the group argue that the bill violates the First and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as federal Title IX rules. The complaint attacks “vagueness” in the law and states “[t]he law not only stigmatizes and silences those vulnerable students, exacerbating risks to their welfare, but also threatens school officials who foster a safe and inclusive environment for them.”[5]

Teachers especially fear the effect this law will have on the way they teach and what their students share. In an article shared by NPR, one Florida teacher says, “[i]t makes wonder, when I talk about families in my classroom, am I going to be violating this law because the children were having discussions about what their family looks like… I’m very fearful that this law is going to just open it up for a lot of more things to start being discriminated against.”[6]


[1] Jaclyn Diaz, Florida’s governor signs controversial law opponents dubbed ‘Don’t Say Gay”, NPR (March 28, 2022), https://www.npr.org/2022/03/28/1089221657/dont-say-gay-florida-desantis.

[2] Madeleine Roberts, New CDC Data Shows LGBTQ Youth are More Likely to be Bullied Than Straight Cisgender Youth, Human Rights Campaign (August 26, 2020), https://www.hrc.org/news/new-cdc-data-shows-lgbtq-youth-are-more-likely-to-be-bullied-than-straight-cisgender-youth

[3] Jaclyn Diaz, Florida’s governor signs controversial law opponents dubbed ‘Don’t Say Gay”, NPR (March 28, 2022), https://www.npr.org/2022/03/28/1089221657/dont-say-gay-florida-desantis.

[4] Andrew Atterbury, LGBTQ advocates sue over Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, Politico (March 31, 2022), https://www.politico.com/news/2022/03/31/lgbtq-advocates-sue-florida-00022001.

[5] Id.

[6] Melissa Block, Teachers fear the chilling effect of Florida’s so called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, NPR (March 30, 2022), https://www.npr.org/2022/03/30/1089462508/teachers-fear-the-chilling-effect-of-floridas-so-called-dont-say-gay-law.

The Great Migration: Educators Leaving the Profession & the Impact it has on Students

Alternative Entrepreneurship Education Choices. Protohack.org

With the pandemic forcing schools online over the past two years, an already dwindling education workforce is seeing a dramatic increase in teachers leaving the profession. Top reasons for this mass exodus include burnout and lack of appropriate compensation, as well as fears related to contracting covid in an in-person setting particularly for those teachers who are in high-risk categories. This is exacerbated by the fact that many teachers are no longer able to cultivate meaningful relationships with their students over this new online format.

The National Education Association poll conducted in January 2022, reported that 90% of its members say that feeling burned out is a serious problem; 86% say they have seen more educators leaving the profession or retiring early since the start of the pandemic; and 80% report that unfilled job openings have led to more work obligations for those left. These rates are even higher among Black and Hispanic/Latino educators.[1] Similar research from the RAND Corporation 2021 State of the U.S. Teacher Survey found nearly one in four teachers said that they were likely to leave their jobs by the end of the 2020–2021 school year, compared with one in six teachers who were likely to leave, on average, prior to the pandemic. [2] In particular, Black or African American teachers were more likely to leave.[3]

 

The result of teachers leaving their positions for new and more prosperous positions outside of the field is devastating for students. This is particularly true for students of color and those with disabilities. Studies show educators leaving the profession has a direct correlation to a decline in students’ success. “Research shows that high teacher turnover rates in schools negatively impact student achievement for all students in a school, not just those in a new teacher’s classroom.”[4] Further, “these rates are highest in schools serving low-income and students and students of color.”[5]

 

Class sizes are ballooning as remaining teachers are forced to consolidate classes. Students’ schedules are being changed to accommodate for this lack of educators. Some students are forced into classes that they may have no interest in or are being switched mid-school year into an entirely new class with new faces and new material.

 

Further complicating matters is the fact that the pool of applicants to fill these vacant positions is scarce, and those who are available may be grossly underqualified.

 

So, what gives? The National Education Association (NEA) says money should be top of mind. NEA supports raising salaries and hiring more people.[6] Specifically, they are pushing that American Rescue Plan money should be used to increase pay and establish new positions.[7] Their message is clear: if we don’t act now, we may be doing irreparable harm.

[1] https://www.nea.org/about-nea/media-center/press-releases/nea-survey-massive-staff-shortages-schools-leading-educator

[2] https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA1108-1.html.

[3] https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RRA1108-1.html.

[4] https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/blog/why-addressing-teacher-turnover-matters#:~:text=High%20turnover%20undermines%20student%20achievement&text=Research%20shows%20that%20high%20teacher,students%20and%20students%20of%20color

[5] https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/blog/why-addressing-teacher-turnover-matters#:~:text=High%20turnover%20undermines%20student%20achievement&text=Research%20shows%20that%20high%20teacher,students%20and%20students%20of%20color

[6] https://www.npr.org/2022/02/01/1076943883/teachers-quitting-burnout.

[7] https://www.npr.org/2022/02/01/1076943883/teachers-quitting-burnout.

Harris County Juvenile Centers 2021 Winter Holiday Surprise

Image of some of the gifts that were donated for the Juvenile Centers in Harris County.

The holidays should be a wonderous time for children. But this year, thousands of children across the United States will spend the holidays behind bars and in residential facilities away from their families and loved ones. With the Covid pandemic continuing to rage on, it has become even more difficult for families to connect with their kids currently housed behind bars.

While we know it’s no replacement for enjoying the holiday season with loved ones outside of the confines of these facility walls, the students at the University of Houston Law Center have continued their tradition of collecting gifts to donate to the kids with the hope of making their holiday season a little brighter. This year, we’re pleased to report that with the help of many generous donations, we were able to meet out fundraising goal. This coming week, we will be delivering donations to the over 200 children housed at the Harris County Detention Center, Leadership Academy, and Youth Village. Notably, we were able to donate stockings that the kids will be able to decorate and which the staff will fill with goodies (this was a big hit last year). Some of the stocking stuffers will include body wash, deodorant, playing cards, candy, granola bars and other snacks, combs, hand sanitizers, lip balm, and holiday socks. Additionally, we’ve assembled toiletry kits for some of the kids that will be released and sent home as well as board games that can be played to help pass the time.

We couldn’t have done this without the help of our extended community of generous donors. Happy Holidays to all!