The Florida Senate voted Tuesday to pass a controversial bill HB 1557, or the Parental Rights in Education. LGBTQIA activists have deemed the legislation a “Don’t Say Gay” bill because it limits discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms. The Florida House of Representatives passed the bill on February 25, 2022.
The bill restricts “[c]lassroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity” for students in kindergarten through third grade that is deemed inappropriate by state standards.”
The bill also bans:
procedures or student support forms that prohibit school district personnel from notifying a parent about his or her student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being, or a change in related services or monitoring, or that encourage or have the effect of encouraging a student to withhold from a parent such information.
In a press release, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the bill will “significantly limit the ability” of school personnel to be a “confidential resource” for students questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Florida Representative Joe Harding told Fox News that the bill “defines that there are certain instructions related to gender and sexual orientation that are just not appropriate at certain ages.” Harding believes the bill will “keep school districts from talking about these topics before kids are ready to process them.”
Senator Dennis Baxley said he was “attracted” to the bill because of a “trending posture” in schools wherein children may be “trying on all these different identities of life, trying to see where they fit in.” According to a study by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, 17 percent of self-identified gay and bisexual men and 11 percent of gay and bisexual women were aware of their sexuality in grade school.
HRW also noted that the bill does not specify what material is inappropriate for young children or who should decide what materials or topics are not age-appropriate.
Senator Tina Polsky questioned her colleagues as to why discussion of sexual orientation must be tightly controlled but mature topics like suicide and drug use are not specifically named in the bill. Senator Shevrin Jones, the first openly gay senator in Florida history, said, “I want to remind my colleagues that I am not a hypothetical, I sit in the room [with] you, and your actions and words matter.”
The bill will now go to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for approval.