“Don’t Say Gay”

Student Perspectives on Florida Legislation


Getty Images

Two women are holding hands against the light through the LGTBI flag.

Jackie Vaks, Reporter

A new Florida bill regarding schools is currently passing through the state senate. Yet, instead of focusing on real problems that affect our school departments – this new law will do nothing but add to them. These two bills (HB 1557 and SB 1834) are heading their way up in the state legislature  and state that 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.”

The Florida House Education & Employment Committee has moved the bill forward, handing it off to the Judiciary Committee. Rep. Joe Harding, who is the sponsor of the legislation, hopes it will “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning upbringing & control of their children,” according to the bill’s text. Several states, consisting of Arizona, Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, and South Dakota, have already brought anti-LGBTQ+ laws in 2022. This Florida legislation follows comparable bills that strip educators of the ability to teach about oppression in the US. Access to supportive resources has been the priority towards stopping anti-LGBTQ+ assaults in recent years, and there has been an increased effort after the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016. LGBTQ+ youth in the state who have a higher threat for suicidal ideation, depression, and anxiety, has been struggling and will continue to if these bills are official. 

This new law would limit classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity while encouraging parents to sue schools or teachers involved in promoting any type of guidance. It’s been called the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill by LGBTQ+ advocates, who fear that if passed into law, it could act as an outright ban on oppression lessons, history, and talk about LGBTQ+ identity. Students facing identity issues already have enough to worry about, but if this law moves forward it will only give more of a reason to feel ashamed and hide who they are. 

Outside the home, schools are the foundation for educating, socializing, and providing offerings to children in the United States. Schools can be challenging environments for students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but they are often specifically unwelcoming for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. There’s a lack of policies and practices that guide LGBTQ+ youth—and a failure to enforce protections that do exist—which means that LGBTQ+ students nationwide face bullying, exclusion, and discrimination in school, placing them at physical and psychological threat. It’s limiting their education. The Trevor Project estimates that at least one LGBTQ+ youth between the ages of 13-24 attempts suicide every 45 seconds in the US. 

The Bullseye asked West Boca students in the LGBTQ community about their thoughts on the legislation. “It limits students and schools from teaching and learning about real events in history. Kids with parents a part of the LGBTQ+  will not be able to talk about their own family and have to feel ashamed. Children have brains like a sponge, they soak up information. If they’re taught throughout Elementary school that being gay is wrong and should not be spoken of, bullying rates will go up in further years and children a part of the community will be in danger.” said one student, “This bill completely dehumanizes the LGBTQ community and furthers judgment and hate towards us. The bill is a complete violation of human and equality rights. I did not choose to be gay. I did not wake up one day and make that choice just as no one decides to be straight. It’s just how I was born and there’s no changing it. Removing that education does nothing but please the homophobic population and increases the danger in our lives. I feel horrible for the future closeted youth who might have to be incredibly cautious in the future for their own safety.” Students are worried this bill will cause danger to the youth of the LGBTQ+ community, and even feel as if we are going back in time. 

On June 26, 2015, gay marriage was fully legalized across the country. In the past 7 years, our society has been so much more supportive and accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. Although there’s a long way to go, passing bills like this will do nothing but stop the progress of the fight for equal rights. Regardless of political view, your gender or sexuality should not be shut down, and everyone deserves to have an equal voice. Instead of focusing on protecting children from a sexuality or gender, Florida should prioritize larger issues like school shootings, teacher shortages, and more. Hopefully one day we can all live in a society where people are allowed to be themselves without the fear of a law having to shut them up.