A Florida House committee passed a bill forbidding discussions about gender ideology and sexual orientation in primary level classrooms on Thursday.
The House Education and Employment Committee overwhelmingly passed the “ Parental Rights in Education Bill,” also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, banning teachers from discussing LGBTQ-related issues with primary level students. The legislation is designed to protect the “fundamental rights of parents” to choose what their children are taught.
“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 bill states.
The legislation allows for a parent to pursue “declaratory or injunctive relief” against a school district should they violate the new rules. The court may award parents attorney fees and court costs in the course of the legal action.
The bill also requires school administrators to notify parents if there are any changes in a student’s “mental, emotional, or physical health or wellbeing.” The bill also requires personnel to encourage students to talk openly with an adult about their wellbeing and are prohibited from withholding any information about the physical and mental wellbeing of a child from their parents.
The bill was introduced by Republican Florida state Sen. Dennis Baxley, who said the legislation “defends” a parent’s responsibility.
“This bill is about defending the most awesome responsibility a person can have: being a parent,” Baxley said. “That job can only be given to you by above.”
Chasten Buttigieg, husband of transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg, called out Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for making his state a difficult place for LGBTQ children to “survive in.”
“This will kill kids. You are purposefully making your state a harder place for LGBTQ kids to survive in,” Buttigieg accused DeSantis. “In a national survey, 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide last year. Now they can’t talk to their teachers?”
A separate Trevor Project study found that LGBTQ students learning about the issue resulted in a 23% drop in suicide attempts last year. The Trevor Project’s director of advocacy and government affairs, Sam Ames, said the bill will harm LGBTQ students.
“This bill will erase young LGBTQ students across Florida, forcing many back into the closet by policing their identity and silencing important discussions about the issues they face,” Ames said. “LGBTQ students deserve their history and experiences to be reflected in their education, just like their peers.”
Jon Harris Maurer said teachings about sexuality and gender identity are “prejudicial” and insult LGBTQ students as well as those with LGBTQ parents. He argued that those that support the bill cannot call themselves “allies of the LGBTQ community.”
The bill requires the Department of Education to review and update school counseling, professional conduct principles, and other guidelines to ensure they are following the new regulations by June 30, 2022.