Don’t Say Gay Bill: A Dangerous Step In The Wrong Direction

Helen Sanders , Contributing Reporter

On Tuesday, March 8th, the Florida Senate passed a highly controversial, highly dangerous bill. The Parental Rights in Education Bill prohibits discussion about gender and romantic orientation in classrooms in a way that is deemed “not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.”

Here’s an excerpt from The Florida House of Representatives website detailing the specifics of what the bill is and how it would be enforced. 

‘[The bill] requires district school boards to adopt procedures that comport with certain provisions of law for notifying student’s parent of specified information; requires such procedures to reinforce fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding upbringing and control of their children; prohibits school district from adopting procedures or student support forms that prohibit school district personnel from notifying parent about specified information or that encourage student to withhold from parent such information; prohibits school district personnel from discouraging or prohibiting parental notification & involvement in critical decisions affecting student’s mental, emotional, or physical well-being; prohibits classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels; requires school districts to notify parents of healthcare services; authorizes parent to bring action against school district to obtain declaratory judgment; provides for additional award of injunctive relief, damages, & reasonable attorney fees & court costs to certain parents.’

Vaguely worded and confusing, it doesn’t sound too threatening on its own, but any deeper look into what the bill entails reveals a much more malicious intent. Many people interpret this as simply not being able to “talk” about sexuality and gender in the classroom,  but this bill affects far more than simple classroom banter.  Under this new bill, if you’re an LGBT+ student, and you’re closeted, and your school finds out that you’re LGBT+, there are no protective measures you can take to keep that information from reaching your parents. LGBT+ teachers or allies could face losing their jobs over trying to foster an accepting environment for their students. A student with mere same-gender parents could be barred from talking about their family in class. Children’s books with LGBT+ characters could be taken off the shelves. If a parent deems what their child is being taught in their classroom as “inappropriate”, the parent can then sue the school. If you receive counseling for mental health issues or go to an in-school support group, your parents will be notified.

People took to the streets across the nation to protest the bill. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons license

It should be noted that this does not apply to conversations regarding heterosexuality or students that identify as straight. Kids are too young to be gay, but they’re never too young to be straight, right?

There are some exceptions to the bill. School staff is mandated to report it unless they deem the sharing of the information to put the child at risk for “abuse, abandonment, and neglect.”

However, many speculate if these exceptions will even be effective in keeping children safe. Statistically, child abuse at home occurs without schools ever noticing. So it is incredibly likely that when an LGBT+ student is getting abused at home, and they happen to seek support from a counselor, the counselor has to report to the student’s home about their sexuality and/or gender identity without having any clue that the student is being abused, and the abuse only worsens. 

Even when schools do notice abuse, Child Protective Services are notorious for leaving children in bad situations if they decide that it is not “true abuse”. And even if child protective services do deem the environment to be unsafe, and take the child, what happens next? The Foster Care System can be a brutal and abusive one. Children in the foster care system, especially LGBT+ children and children of color are put at an increased risk for everything from sexual abuse, domestic abuse, PTSD, neglect, depression, suicide, eating disorders, self-harm, substance use, homelessness, incarceration, and the list goes on. 

So, with the signing of this bill by Florida Governor Rob Desantis, LGBT+ children, parents of LGBT+ children, LGBT+ teachers, all find themselves in an incredibly difficult, incredibly unsafe place. 

In order to understand the true danger of the Parental Rights in Education Bill, we need to examine some statistics among the LGBT+ community in America. The American Academy of Pediatrics found that transgender youth are far more likely to attempt suicide than cisgender youth. The same goes for gay and bisexual youth, with higher reported suicide attempts than cisgender youth. In a Survey conducted by The Trevor Project, researchers found that LGBT+ youth are four times as likely to attempt suicide than children who are not LGBT+. It is not because these children are LGBT+ that make them suicidal, it is the conditions that they find themselves in that cause a greater risk of suicidal thoughts and ideations. Trans youth who are given gender-affirming care (puberty blockers, hormone therapy) have a reduced risk of suicide and suicide attempts compared to a transgender child who does not. Research has shown gay and bisexual children who have a supportive environment is proven to minimize the risk of suicide exponentially. 

Florida is far from the only state where anti-LGBT+ legislation is being pushed, either. Texas, Utah, Indiana, Alabama, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Idaho are among the states that are passing bills that will strip LGBT+ individuals of their rights. On March 21st, just last week, Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, issued an order that rules gender-affirming medical procedures and treatments as child abuse. This previous Friday, Utah banned transgender athletes in girls sports. It becomes more and more difficult to pass these laws off as “helping keep children safe” when it puts the lives of children in terrible danger. 

I find it curious that the same states who ban abortion when considering the high rates of suicide among the youth, don’t seem to extend their “pro-life” beliefs beyond the womb. 

Here’s the bottom line: Every child deserves to feel safe in their classroom and at home. Period. A child’s safety transcends political or religious opinion. A child’s worth is not dictated by their sexuality or gender orientation. LGBT+ children deserve to be accepted and loved, just like any other child should be. Queer people are here. They were here yesterday and they’ll be here tomorrow. No law or religious text or rule will change that.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline


National Domestic Violence Hotline


Trevor Project LGBT+ Helpline


Trans Lifeline