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.

Weekly Round Up (November 7, 2019)

A new Trump administration rule could hurt LGBTQ youth in foster care

Foster care agencies could soon turn away prospective foster parents because they are gay or trans, thanks to a rule proposed by the Trump administration on Friday.

The rule would remove language protecting LGBTQ people and others from discrimination in programs funded by grants from the Department of Health and Human Services, according to the Washington Post.

The change would apply to a wide range of programs, including those aimed at HIV prevention and treatment for opioid addiction and other substance abuse. But advocates say it appears targeted at the child welfare system, where it could have devastating effects, including keeping children from finding homes and even funneling them into the prison system.

Read more here . . . 

 

Genesis, 9, draws her family in Matamoros, while her tía watches them from Brownsville, Texas.  I want to leave from here because I can't be happy and I can't sleep,  she writes. She believes there are crocodiles in the Rio Grande river, where many asylum-seekers bathe and wash their clothes.‘They’re Screaming for Help.’ See Drawings From Children Stuck in Mexico as They Seek U.S. Asylum

“America, where they didn’t let me in,” writes 11-year-old Jose from Honduras in Spanish next to a picture of mountains and trees on a canvas in blue, green and brown colors. He also drew a river — the Rio Grande that separates him from Brownsville, Texas, where his family hopes to claim asylum. “La tierra prometida,” he writes. “The promised land.”

Jose is one of at least 1,450 migrants who are living in a tent encampment on the streets of Matamoros, a city in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, as a result of the Trump Administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. Dozens of children in Matamoros drew their experiences as part of an art project, photos of which were provided exclusively to TIME by Dr. Belinda Arriaga, an associate professor at the University of San Francisco who specializes in child trauma and Latino mental health. She traveled to Matamoros Oct. 19-25 as part of a group of volunteers who provided aid and psychological care to migrant children and their families.

Read more here . . . 

 

No More ‘At-Risk’ Students in California

A decades-long effort to change how educators talk about students facing economic or social challenges has been backed by California lawmakers.

bill to remove references to “at-risk youth” and replace the term with “at-promise youth” in California’s Education Code and Penal Code was approved by California governor Gavin Newsom in mid-October. The California Education Code is a collection of laws primarily applying to public K-12 schools. The bill does not change the definition of “at risk,” it merely replaces it with “at promise.”

 “For far too long, the stigmatizing label of ‘at risk’ has been used to describe youth living in difficult situations,” said Assembly member Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer Sr., lead author of the bill, in an address to the California State Assembly earlier this year.