By Mabel Soriano, 11th Grade
In recent decades, the public acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community has risen. In 2015, the United States declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. However, the LGBTQ+ community is still battling to acquire rights already given to heterosexual individuals. Although prejudice is persistent, many advances have occurred. Well, until now.
The Florida Senate passed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, formally known as the “Parental Rights in Education” bill which would limit what classrooms can teach about sexual education. Specifically, it prohibits “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity” from kindergarten until third grade. This bill is not limited to only those students; classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity will be prohibited at all grade levels if not deemed age-appropriate. Additionally, the bill would allow parents to sue school districts that engage in these topics.
Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, said, “My goal is to educate kids on the subjects, math, reading, science, all the things that are so important. I don’t want the schools to be a playground for ideological disputes.” The governor claims that the bill addresses “sexual stuff” and “telling kids they may be able to pick genders and all that.”
The Republican governor has been the major advocate for the Don’t Say Gay Bill to help parents protect their children from inappropriate ideologies. “How many parents want their kindergarteners to have “transgenderism” or something injected into classroom discussion?” he asked. “We are going to make sure that parents can send their children to kindergarten without having some of this stuff injected into their curriculum.”
Florida’s House of Representatives approved the bill on February 24th and the Senate on March 8th, and during this time, the number of protests exponentially increased. Anyone against the bill remained with a sliver of hope that DeSantis wouldn’t sign it. Nonetheless, the Florida legislature has a new addition: the Don’t Say Gay Bill will severely deteriorate the conversation on sexual identity by restricting the ability to discusse sexuality. Many believe this is a regressive step in the fight for acceptance and inclusion.
The newly accepted bill will come into effect on July 1st of this year, and all school district plans need to be updated by June 2023. This policy has drawn intense national scrutiny from critics who argue it risks marginalizing LBGTQ+ individuals.
LGBTQ+ advocates, students, Democrats, the entertainment industry, and the White House have denounced the bill. While DeSantis and Republicans say the measure is reasonable and parents—not teachers—should broach subjects of sexual orientation and gender identity with children, Joe Biden says that, “Our LGBTQI+ youth deserve to be affirmed and accepted just as they are.”
After signing the bill on Monday, March 28th, DeSantis expressed, “We will make sure parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination.” Indoctrination is teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically. Republicans and advocates of the bill believe that discussing sexuality and all its variants equals forcing children to be gay—but this is where the misconception lies.
We have discussed in previous articles the effects of censoring relevant information on children and adolescents. Contrary to conservative belief, the censorship of topics such as sexuality, prejudice, and certain historical events is counterintuitive. Censorship deprives students of a complete education that helps them understand the world around them. Instead of protecting children, this bill will add a negative connotation to any sexuality that isn’t heterosexual and any individual that doesn’t stay within the gender norms. The added negative connotation will engender a more ignorant and homophobic generation, which eventually will target the same kids you’re trying to protect.
Additionally, the future school curriculum could potentially exclude Black History, the Civil Rights movement, the Holocaust, and the Chinese Exclusion Act—to name a few historical events that neglected minorities. Nonetheless, the curriculum would promote white supremacy, homophobia, systemic racism, and misogyny. The Parental Rights in Education bill could be what conservatives need to change society as we know it.