Educators believe Florida Governor Ron DeSantis passed the bill for political gain, rather than with any understanding of school curriculum.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the controversial "Don’t Say Gay" bill, more formally known as the Parental Rights in Education bill, into law on March 28, 2022. The legislation has left hundreds of educators confused about how to approach discussions on topics related to the LGBTQ+ community in schools. The state's LGBTQ+ and allied teachers are speaking out against the law, sharing their furious, fearful responses and calling for greater inclusivity in the classroom. The bill is scheduled to come into effect on July 1. United States Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Rachel Levine have promised their unwavering support to LGBTQ+ kids and their families in Florida, PinkNews reports.
A group of LGBTQ advocates — including organizations, students, parents and a teacher — have sued the state of Florida and the DeSantis administration in federal court over the 'Don't Say Gay' bill.— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) April 1, 2022
BREAKING: Over a dozen students and teachers file a HUGE lawsuit against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for “violating the Constitutional rights of LGBTQ students” and “stigmatizing, silencing, and erasing” them by signing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. RT IF YOU SUPPORT THEIR LAWSUIT!— Occupy Democrats (@OccupyDemocrats) March 31, 2022
"Currently, I’ve got a rainbow on my shirt, I’m wearing the colors of Ukraine today, you know, I’d like to be a cause célèbre before I die," shared Leslie Owens, a nonbinary educator who has been teaching in Florida public schools for 16 years. "I’m not going to change the way I teach at all. And if they want to come after me, then let them do so." According to Owens, the bill is not about parental rights. Rather, they believe DeSantis is using the bill to gain favor as part of his presidential campaign. They affirmed, "He’s using hatred as his presidential mantra and this is his way of doing it."
Following the enactment of what critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” law, some LGBTQ teachers have quit the professional altogether. https://t.co/gIXpv6cGYT— Yahoo News (@YahooNews) April 4, 2022
The legislation bans the discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in classrooms from kindergarten to third grade. And fourth grade children upwards, these topics must be "age-appropriate" and "developmentally appropriate"—however, the bill provides no definitions for these terms.
Owens has followed a different approach in their classroom. "My classrooms have always been transparent," they stated. "There’s no issue. Any parent is welcome to come into my classroom anytime they want to … All my lesson plans are online, always have been, ever since that was a capability. Our literature book is online, the standards are online. Any parent could go on to the Department of Education website and look at the standards. Look at the curriculum. Look at the literature. Look at the recommended novels. It’s all there. Transparent, there’s nobody hiding anything."
the don't say gay bill, which bans discussion of anything LGBTQ in schools, has passed— matt (@mattxiv) March 28, 2022
i want to take the hand of every parent who rooted for and voted for this, and tell them lovingly that their queer child will be queer regardless of whether or not you let them talk about it
In addition to their work in the classroom, Owens runs a weekly lunch club called Emotional Learning, which is essentially a Gay Straight Alliance "in hiding." Through the club, they have already been able to see the effects of the "Don't Say Gay" bill on their students. They revealed, "Kids who are queer are scared. This [county] is Trump country ... The kids have been through so much trauma since Trump was elected. They’ve been so afraid. There’s been so much bigotry and hate. There’s been so much encouragement of bigotry and hate, in our schools, in our county, in our state, in our country. These kids have been traumatized for years now. I mean, this is 2022. This is six years of listening to this constant condemnation, to these lies."
A spoke to a dozen LGBTQ students in Florida about the impact that the “Don’t Say Gay” law will have on their lives. Many are already enduring daily harassment, rape threats, and death threats. They believe the new law will make it impossible to get help.https://t.co/45Qx6Tj7xM— Sad Gay Tweets for Sad Gays (@Nico_Lang) April 1, 2022
Even though some educators are concerned about lawsuits, many plan to continue to do their jobs. In the meantime, education secretary Cardona and assistant secretary Dr. Levine have offered their support. The former affirmed in a statement, "Laws around the country, including in Florida, have targeted and sought to bully some of our most vulnerable students and families and create division in our schools. My message to you is that this administration won’t stand for bullying or discrimination of any kind, and we will use our authorities to protect, support, and provide opportunities for LGBTQ+ students and all students."
DOOCY: "At what age does the White House think that students should be taught about sexual orientation and gender identity?"— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) April 4, 2022
PSAKI: "This law...is politicians in Florida propagating misinformed, hateful policies that do absolutely nothing to address the real issues." pic.twitter.com/bgdKLafk1M
Let’s make the Don’t say gay bill cost DeSantis his career. Homophobia belongs in our history books, not power.— David Hogg 🌻 (@davidhogg111) April 5, 2022