A Florida legislative committee advanced a bill Thursday that would outlaw certain discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida schools.
HB 1557, called the Parental Rights in Education bill, would prohibit school teachers or third parties from introducing classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity for kindergarten through third grade if that instruction is not age or developmentally appropriate. The bill would also require educators and other school personnel to inform parents about changes in their children’s physical, mental, or emotional health.
A parent could sue a school that violates these provisions, seeking injunctive relief. A court could award damages and reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs to the parent should they succeed in receiving relief. The bill does not, however, define any terms or explain who decides what is age or developmentally appropriate. The fear is the bill will cause a chilling effect, deterring teachers from addressing issues of sexual orientation or gender identity.
There is also a fear that it would hinder students from coming to trusted teachers or advisors with questions or concerns about their own orientation or identity, knowing that the school would have to inform their parents. School personnel would no longer be a confidential resource for students struggling with these issues.
Human Rights Watch released a statement that Florida is moving in the wrong direction with this legislation, saying that teachers “should not fear punishment” and students “should not be cut off from affirming information and support.”