So-called 'Don't Say Gay' bill now officially state law

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed the Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill by critics.

The bill bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and states that any instruction on those topics cannot occur "in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards," according to the legislation, HB 1557.

"We will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination," DeSantis said before signing the bill Monday.

The legislation states that the Florida Department of Education would have to update its standards in accordance with the requirements.

Under this bill, parents can also decline any mental, emotional and physical health services available to their children at school, and schools will be required to notify parents of their child's use of school health services unless there is reason to believe "that disclosure would subject the student to abuse, abandonment or neglect."

Parents could sue their school district if they believe there is a violation of any of these requirements or restrictions.

The bill is expected to go into effect July 1.

"I think the last couple years have really revealed to parents that they are being ignored increasingly across our country when it comes to their kids education. We have seen curriculum embedded for very, very young children, classroom materials about sexuality and woke gender ideology. We've seen libraries that have clearly inappropriate pornographic materials for very young kids," DeSantis claimed at the signing.

The bill has stirred debate and controversy nationwide.

Critics say that this ban is aimed at ridding classrooms of LGBTQ content and discussion.

They say it will harm LGBTQ youth by shunning representation and inclusion in classrooms, putting the mental health and safety of this group at risk.

"Let us be clear: Should its vague language be interpreted in any way that causes harm to a single child, teacher or family, we will lead legal action against the State of Florida to challenge this bigoted legislation," local LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida said in a statement.

They also said erasing the presence of the LGBTQ community from lessons implies students should be ashamed or should suppress their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Legislators against the bill argued that students are aware of gender identity and sexual orientation at a young age and said schools should be allowed to offer spaces to discuss these topics.

"It is a sad day in Florida. Make no mistake, by signing the 'Don't Say Gay' bill, Ron DeSantis is taking the side of hatred, bullying and discrimination and sending a clear message to children in Florida that he doesn't care about them or their families if he can use their pain to score political points with his base," Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz said. "Florida's families deserve leaders who will stand up for them and give them the freedom to be proud of who they are."

The Biden administration has denounced the legislation and met with LGBTQ youth and their families in the state.

"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," Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

He added: "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 LGBTQI+ students and all students."

Supporters of the bill say that these discussions and decisions should be left to the parents.

"What we're preventing is a school district deciding they're going to create a curriculum to insert themselves," Rep. Joe Harding, the sponsor of the bill, told ABC News on the podcast "Start Here."

He added, "Families are families. Let the families be families. The school district doesn't need to insert themselves at that point when children are still learning how to read and do basic math."

"This bill is not intended to hurt students," added Florida state Sen. Kelli Stargel in debate on the legislation. "This bill is not intended to out gay children. This bill is intended to strengthen the family."

More than six in 10 Americans oppose legislation that would prohibit classroom lessons about sexual orientation or gender identity in elementary school, a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll found.

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