The "Don't Say Gay Bill" Passes

by Yazmin Macias / Sep 15, 2022

 

 

In this kid-friendly podcast, Worth Noting delves into hot topics in the world currently. Host Matthew Winner dives into each topic and brings information to the front. This episode dives into the consequences that come with recent Anti-LGBTQ legislation that passed, specifically with how the legislation will make it unsafe for students to express their identities. 

 

This post has been lightly edited for clarity.  



Matthew: The Parental Rights in Education Bill (SB 1834), known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, has passed through the Florida Sentate and now travels to the desk of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for final approval. Gov. DeSantis has previously expressed support for the bill and, if signed, the bill would go into effect on July 1, 2022. 

 

The information outlined in this bill reads primarily as a means of securing a parent’s right to “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children in a specified manner.”

 

Language this broad can be interpreted any number of ways and that, in large part, is what makes the implications of this bill so devastating. 

 

For example, when the bill reads, “A school district may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students,” does it mean that these discussions can still happen if they’re voluntarily brought up in the classroom setting? Or does that language imply that any discussion around sexual orientation or gender identity should be shut down immediately?

 

And who gets to decide what is “age appropriate” and/or “developmentally appropriate” for students? After all, each student is different. 

 

Each of you listening is different. You come from different families and different homes. You come from different cultures and different beliefs. You come from different norms of discussing topics, difficult or otherwise.   

 

The bill’s language initially calls for schools and school personnel, meaning those who work at a school, to “adopt procedures for notifying a student’s parent if there is a change in the student’s services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being and the school’s ability to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for the student.”

 

 

 

 

 

As an educator, I cannot imagine doing otherwise. To care for a student means to keep open communication between school and home so that all parties can help provide the support and environment that child needs to thrive. 

 

Withholding that information would mean keeping information from the parent or guardian. And the only way I can make sense of keeping information from the parent or guardian would be if that information would put the child in harm’s way. Caring for the kids in your school or classroom is a top priority of teachers and school. Always.  

 

Where things get dangerous, and I mean literally dangerous, for LGBTQ kids and families in Florida public schools is in those 3rd and 4th articles. 

 

Article 3 is the one I shared above, where schools and teachers may not “encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels.”

 

Article 4 gives parents the right to “bring an action against a school district.” It gives parents the right to sue if they feel the school is teaching their primary school-aged child information that they feel is “harmful” to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being.

 

Now, we can play this out a couple of different ways, but I’m going to guess that you, listener, do not need me to ask when it would be “harmful” to a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being to learn that some families have two mommies, or two dads, or a parent who identifies as non-binary, or a sibling who is gay, or a relative who is transgender. 

 

Kids are constantly seeking to understand their world and the diversity throughout it. You know this because you live it. Everyday.

 

It’s what makes you ask questions. It’s what helps you understand yourself and your family better. It’s what compels you to seek to understand others who are not like you. And to understand experiences that are not things you’ve experienced. 

 

Learning about experiences different from your own can be uncomfortable. Learning, in general, can be uncomfortable. But this does not mean that it’s harmful.

 

Perhaps something you’re learning is confusing to you. Uncomfortable, but not harmful.

 

Maybe something you’re learning elicits a lot of empathy from you. You feel bad to know that someone or some group of people endured whatever hardship they endured. Uncomfortable, but not harmful.

 

Perhaps something you’re learning opens up more questions and wonderings and “I never knew that”s. Whether it’s a fact about the natural world, or a scientific discovery, or an historic movement, or cultural difference you have not yet encountered in your life. Uncomfortable, but not harmful. 

 

Seeing or learning about something for the first time can absolutely make us momentarily uncomfortable, but what is the potential for that new knowledge to actually cause us harm?

 

 

 

 

I’m not sure about that. And I think that people (and grownups, specifically) define “harmful” in different ways. It’s different from one home to another. 

 

So here’s your homework.

 

If you attend school in Florida, you may or may not already be aware of this bill. Know that it’s going to affect the way your teachers are able to engage your class in LGBTQ representation. But also know that you have every right and every protection to speak up and to ask questions and to share experiences and love. You’ve always got the right to love. 

 

So if sharing that you know and you love LGBTQ family members or friends or community members is what is on your heart, there is nothing in this bill that prevents you from sharing that. 

 

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for your teachers or your school, but hopefully that will change. Hopefully voices will challenge this bill and it will get overturned.

 

It is absolutely harmful to feel ashamed or threatened by having LGBTQ family members or friends or community members. And this bill will cause that harm to some members of your school community. Be on the watch, and be sure to love. Those community members will need your love most of all.  

 

There are many, many states actively pursuing anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ legislation. It is not limited to Florida. 

 

So, for everyone else, make room. Make room for others who have LGBTQ family members or friends or community members. See them. Value their experiences. Know that it is not safe to be an LGBTQ individual in all parts of our nation right now. But it doesn’t need to stay that way. 

 

I’m Matthew. And this is Worth Noting.