What is ‘Don’t say gay’ law?

‘Don’t Say Gay’ is a moniker critics use to refer to the Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Law (HB 1557). The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill was signed into law last year by Florida governor Ron Desantis (republican). 

The law introduces a number of restrictions against LGBTQ students and seeks to prohibit teachers and school officials from discussing any topics related to LGBTQ issues with students.

Here is what the law says:

“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.”

The law also relates to parental rights in education and states that school district boards must adopt procedures for notifying students’ parents of certain information, with the goal of reinforcing the fundamental right of parents to make decisions about their children’s upbringing.

The procedures, as the law confirms, should not prevent a parent from accessing records, nor should they encourage students to withhold information from their parents. 

The law further adds that school district personnel must also not discourage parental notification and involvement when it comes to decisions affecting a student’s mental, emotional, or physical well-being.

More than that, the law also requires that any training developed or provided by a school district must adhere to the standards established by prohibiting classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels or in a specified manner.

The act requires that all educational materials distributed, provided, or used within any school district adhere to these standards.

Since its enactment a few months ago, The law has been met with indignation and criticism from LGBTQ activists and allies. The law has been described as dangerous and discriminatory, as it can leave LGBTQ students feeling isolated and unsupported by their schools.

While president Biden has previously called it ‘hateful‘, the White House issued a statement expressing its deep concern with the law describing it as ‘discrimination, plain and simple’.

The statement further contends that the new law is “a part of a disturbing and dangerous nationwide trend of right-wing politicians cynically targeting LGBTQI+ students, educators, and individuals to score political points. It encourages bullying and threatens students’ mental health, physical safety, and well-being. It censors dedicated teachers and educators who want to do the right thing and support their students. And it must stop.”

The White House also encouraged parents of LGBTQ students to file complaints with the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. On its part, the Trevor Project criticises the law and said that it  “appear to undermine LGBTQ support in schools and include vague parental notification requirements, which could effectively require teachers to ‘out’ LGBTQ students to their legal guardians without their consent, regardless of whether they are supportive.”

Florida governor Desantis downplayed these criticisms referring to it as mere ‘sloganeering’ and part of ‘woke gender ideology’.

As an educator, I do stand with LGBTQ students, teachers, educators, and parents in Florida and everywhere. I am hoping that the law will be repealed at some point because it carries huge risks for a wide portion of students.

Even before the introduction of the law, suicide rates among LGBTQ students were already higher in comparison with their straight counterparts. According to Trevor Project, when LGBTQ teens are provided access to spaces that affirm their gender identity, rates of suicide attempts are decreased.

Teachers and parents should definitely resist any legislation that discriminates against students because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. I believe that the trend of civic rights and personal freedoms is going downward in the States.

There are many precedents to the ‘don’t say gay’ law. For instance, the Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act (Stop WOKE), prohibits the teaching of critical race theory. 

Also, an increasing number of books are being banned from school libraries because of a state law that mandates that any book or resource used in school should be ‘age-appropriate’, ‘suited to student needs’ and free of pornography.

Taken together, these laws are a harbinger of where we are heading to in the near future. freedoms are being severely restricted under phoney pretexts of protecting children. 

That is why I believe that we need to work together to protect our rights, safeguard our freedoms and ensure everyone can enjoy the same opportunities regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. This is especially true for Florida’s vulnerable LGBTQ student community, who must feel supported and safe at school.

I’m hoping that legislators in Florida will listen to the outcry from parents, teachers, educators and LGBTQ+ activists alike and repeal this law before it does any more harm to students.

More sources on ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law for teachers and educators:

The actual law document HB 1557, Florida House of RepresentativesWhat you Need to Know about Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Law, National Education AssociationThe Dangerous Consequences of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill on LGBTQ+ Youth in Florida, by Meredith JohnsonWhat Educators Should Know About LGBTQ+ Rights, by National Education AssociationWhat You Need to Know About State Laws Attacking Transgender Youth, edjusticeConfronting Anti-LGBTQI+ Harassment in Schools: A Resource for Students and Families, by U.S. Department of Education New CDC Data Shows LGBTQ Youth are More Likely to be Bullied Than Straight Cisgender Youth, Human Rights CampaignNational Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2021, Trevor ProjectFlorida’s governor signs controversial law opponents dubbed ‘Don’t Say Gay’, NPRFlorida law limiting LGBTQ discussions takes effect — and rocks schools, the Washington PostThe Fear and Fury of These Florida Parents, the Washington Post