A Large Uproar has been made in recent days about Florida Bill HB 1557, unofficially dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill, and what it would mean for the future of children and how they’re educated about LGBT topics and gender identity. A bill thrown in a long list of ‘Anti-LGBT’ legislation used to target or bring down the rights and treatment of LGBT members.
The Bill states multiple different legislative changes for students rights, students treatment and assessment for mental health, and how topics like at home abuse are handled by school staff for betterment of students, which are a net positive, but the main issue relies on the 3rd bullet point in the bill. “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. “ This line has been used by detractors of the bill to claim the bill is trying to “silence LGBT awareness in schools”, and speak for a devastating effect towards how children view LGBT members.
On one hand, the discussion against the topic is that gender identity and sexual orientation is a “grown up topic”. Children are too young, especially in K-3, to learn about sexual orientation, gender identity, and how to affirm one’s identity, especially when you are a developing child, who can’t make long term, substantial decisions for yourself. Parents are also afraid of teachers using this allowance of discussion to indoctrinate or try to encourage children to be gay, or to change their gender identity, and can be seen as a predatory tactic used to harm children.
The other side of the spectrum is that the bill will allow baseline discussion of topics such as normalcy of gender identity and alternate sexual orientations, which makes the topics more natural for children to understand as not being something problematic, but rather something that just exists. Alienating the topic of gender identity and sexual orientation from someone would lead them to not understanding the topic, and thus, be more likely to be hostile or aggressive towards the thought of abnormal sexual orientation and sexual identity.
It’s not an easy topic, because the bill is very broad in what it is trying to convey. There is a large difference between a teacher bringing up that they have a partner of the same sex, and that it is a normal thing, to having a full blown lesson about the intricacies of sexual orientation and gender identity. There are fringe cases of outspoken k-3 teachers who have gone on social media and explained how they want to be super forthcoming in how they educate their students about the LGBT, and that kind of overly omnipresent approach can be what turns people towards voting for the bill. A lot of people may misunderstand the bill, and think the bill is stopping teachers from trying to force their own beliefs on children, and fear mongering from outlets like Breitbart, trying to present the bill as something it isn’t, doesn’t help the case. Plain and simple, from the words of Joe Harding, “It encourages the parents to have the conversation with the child related to sensitive issues like this. What we don’t want is the school district trying to take on the role of being a parent,” While articles from outlets like MSNBC Brandish headlines like “Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill is Child Abuse, Plain and Simple”.
The bill is being torn from both sides as something it’s not, when in reality the legislators pushing it seem to be very upfront that they are okay with the discussion when including parents, but do not want the school being a stand-in for parents, teaching something in a way a parent may not approve of. HB 1557 had passed already, and its actual effects or changes in the classroom are yet to be seen, as most classes didn’t have much in terms of discussion on LGBT topics for K-3 grades, an existing argument from people in support of the bill. The bill also contains legislation to help protect students dealing with physical, emotional, or mental issues at home or in school and preventing schools from withholding information regarding a student’s health and safety, and providing more services and help for those students. HB 1557 revolves around parents and the school district being more attentive towards children, what they’re taught, and how info about them is communicated between parents and teachers.