According to the Associated Press, on March 28, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida officially signed what the critics have called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would restrict students in kindergarten through third-grade from learning about sexual orientation and gender identity.
The bill states, “‘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.’ Parents would be able to sue districts over violations.”
However, some members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community have expressed some concern about the law.
“To me, the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill is incredibly horrifying,” said junior Olivia Delgado, president of the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA). “It also stands as a testament to the fact that even today, LGBTQ+ youth are constantly under attack from legislatures that should be there to protect and we are absolutely stunned and appalled by this newest homophobic and transphobic piece of legislation,” said Delgado. “I have witnessed similar reactions from allied students, faculty and staff in the SHU community as well since a bill such as this goes deeply against Sacred Heart University’s core values.”
Others have claimed that the restriction of sexual orientation education is discrimentory towards the LGTBQ+ community as well as a violation of human rights.
“I do think the new legislation in Florida does help to send the message that deviations in gender identity and sexual orientation are not the norm,” said Dr. Kelly Marino, coordinator of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies minor. “It stigmatizes these populations to not have their stories mentioned. It contributes to erasure.”
However, proponents of the law have argued that schools should not be the one to teach students about these subjects, but instead, parents.
According to the Associated Press, “Republicans have said that the law is intended to keep parents informed of what children learn and are exposed to in schools.”
“Additionally, less talked-about aspects of the law require districts to notify parents of health care services offered in schools and give them the option to decline them. Districts will also be required to notify parents if there is any change in a student’s mental, emotional or physical health monitoring,” reported the Associated Press.
Despite the intentions of the law, some are still skeptical if school districts can completely deter students from talking about LGBTQ+ issues.
“The reality is that most kids are not just going to be discussing these issues with their parents,” said Marino. “They will end up having these discussions either way. It’s just that by bringing it up in the classroom, the context can be guided a little more.”
Some large companies and organizations have even publicly objected to the law.
According to the Associated Press, “During the week of March 16, Disney workers planned walkouts during their breaks every day to protest CEO Bob Chapek’s slow response in publicly criticizing Florida legislation. Additionally, the U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona spoke with LGBTQ+ students to say the federal government supports them even if the governor does not.”
Some students have strongly criticized proponents of the law and claim that learning about people who are LGBTQ+ should not be such a polarizing topic.
“Contrary to many of the homophobic sentiments that proponents of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill claim, children not feeling safe and supported within their school community because they are LGBTQ+ is a critical issue,” said Delgado. “To me, it’s unimaginable and cruel to take away the opportunity from children to learn about accepting people of different identities.”
Others who oppose the law have restated the importance of teaching about a variety of different people in order to properly prepare children for the future.
“In today’s society, people are maturing at younger ages in a variety of different contexts,” said Dr. Marino. ”We need to start preparing people at earlier ages for the realities of a diverse world.”