“Don’t Say Gay Bill”

What Does it Mean?

Ella Connors

Public schools in Florida are henceforth banned from discussing sexual orientation or identity in any manner in the classroom. Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, signed into law the “Parental Rights in Education” Bill on March 8, 2022, which opponents have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill (NPR). Accoridng to NPR, the bill says, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity” is prohibited from kindergarten through third grade or in ways which are not seemingly appropriate for students, abiding by state regulations. 

While president Biden has referred to the bill as “hateful,” there are still many that support it throughout the country (The New York Times). Those who support the bill claim it is a good way for parents to decide when and how to introduce their children to LGBTQ+ topics. According to NPR, DeSantis stated it was “inappropriate” to teach kindergarten students “they can be whatever they want to be.” The bill also gives parents the power to sue the school if they do not approve of their teachings (The Washington Post). 

Opponents of the bill report that LGBTQ+ children already face higher risks of suicide and mental health problems throughout their youth. Giving kids comfortable spaces to learn about themselves helps to prevent this. They also reprimanded the parental notification requirements of the bill, which demands that a teacher or administrator notify the parents immediately if their child were to receive any support services, essentially allowing parents to be told if their child may be part of the LGBTQ+ community (NPR). This does not allow students to tell their parents on their own time when they feel most comfortable.

Ramapo senior, Lia DiLisio, says, “Bills like this are damaging to the mental health of queer people,especially queer youth. I personally feel offended and disheartened.” She also explained that she wishes something like being gay didn’t have to be a poltical matter, and yet because of legislation like this, it is.

This law also questions whether or not a teacher having a picture of their spouse on their desk, or being referred to as Mr. or Mrs. qualifies as instruction based on gender identity in the classroom (The Washington Post). And classroom instruction could also be referring to not allowing students to read books with LGBTQ+ characters, even if both the character and their sexuality plays a very small role (The New York Times).

Of course, this bill has had impacts on other states as well. For instance, shortly after, Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama signed their version into law and Ohio Republicans recently introduced a similar law to their legislature (The Washington Post).

Ramapo teacher, Ms. Casey says, “The benefits of introducing students to gender identity and sexual orientation at the elementary level are undeniable. Acknowledging and addressing LBGTQ+ history, identity, and culture from a young age sets a foundation of acceptance, kindness, understanding, and safety for our youth – both of and for themselves and the world at large.”