According to the state of Florida, being happy is no longer allowed.
The state of Florida is on its way to pass HB 1557, referred to as the Parental Rights in Education bill. Despite the bill’s promising name, it actually looks to target LGBTQ+ youth. The bill has been mentioned in conversations as “Don’t Say Gay” by many, because of the ban it would put on “classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.” It additionally demands that schools must “notify parents if there is a change in the services” for the student in question.
Obviously, this bill will harm students looking for help from school. Some students are “out” – public with their identity and orientation – to friends, but not with family. Alerting family members that the student is being given help or talking with the school regarding sexuality or gender may “out” them without the student’s knowledge or consent. This leads to the safety of these kids being in jeopardy, because 68% of teens are ostracized by family members for coming out and 25% are even kicked out of their homes. The bill could even be seen as unconstitutional, violating the First Amendment.
Some may say that the bill is just trying to help parents get involved and in the know of their child’s lives, but based off the governor of Florida’s actions, this bill is specifically to target queer youth. DeSantis explained it in press conferences as “How many parents want their kindergarteners to have transgenderism injected into the classroom instruction?” He has approved bills banning trans women from competing in sports aligning with their gender and people aligned with DeSantis have spoken out in a way that shows the true beliefs of the bill. DeSantis’ spokesperson, Christina Pushaw, stated that people protesting against the bill were “probably a groomer” or “don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children.”
A teacher in Miami, Liz Morales, expressed that she believes the bill is going to “create a lot of fear among teachers and school personnel.” The bill states that if a parent feels that the school has violated the bill, they can sue the entire district. Even though the bill only specifically states up to 3rd grade, teachers in high schools are worried that they will be affected.
The bill was approved by lawmakers on March 8th and the only person that has to sign for it to go into effect is Ron DeSantis. As explained above, Ron clearly supports the bill, but he wants to meet with Bob Chapek to discuss it. Many may not know the name, but you know what he runs. Chapek is the current CEO of Disney and is attempting to bring LGBTQ+ leaders in the company to discuss with DeSantis. Disney has power in Florida, because they have employed so much of the population there. Disney is a large part of Florida’s economy, meaning they have the power to pull these moves and not be questioned.
The bill itself is very likely to pass. People are noticing how far these ideas can get and some are even passing their own. For example, Georgia and Tennessee are banning LGBTQ+ topics in schools. Texas and Idaho are claiming that helping transgender children medically is child abuse and can get you in prison.
The governors signing these bills all have something in common: they are all straight white men. There is a reason why they want to control what LGBTQ+ people can do or talk about at school and how race can be discussed in the class. It is so they can try to salvage the grip on society that has lessened and lessened over centuries. It is used to divide the people and use LGBTQ+ people or BIPOC people as a scapegoat for issues in the United States. And it has worked, so the push for this unfair way of life stays.
If the unconstitutional bill passes and schools do completely comply, there will be an even greater divide. The students who now believe that LGBTQ+ issues do not affect them because they were not taught them in school, or students who have gone out of their way to find out about LGBTQ+ matters as a direct result of the law or because someone they know is affected. There will be a greater divide. That is what the laws have always been about — division.
The division is already evident in Florida. In Orange County, students are protesting and chanting “We Say Gay.” The protest was organized by Will Larkins, a junior, who explained that he wanted to “get the attention of our representatives, of our senators, because the point is to show them that we are the ones in power” and “what they’re doing doesn’t represent us, especially marginalized groups.” Students all across America are also showing their support, such as in Colorado, 300 students protested, with 12-year old Max Walters expressing “They are trying to make it so I can not have a place in society. They are trying to make it so I have to be set aside as to what they think I should be, not what I am.” Keena Hatsell, organizer of the Colorado protest, explained her reasoning of not standing still while “the government is trying to pass laws that are directly aimed at hurting us,” and ended off with “We are going to be the youth that runs this country and it’s important that we spread these issues around so people know how wrong this (bill) is.” LGBTQ+ students are even at Florida’s capital to protest the bill, some even risking their health to do so.
Some students have been suspended from school for peacefully protesting the bill, which is again showing that the bill isn’t to protect children or to allow parents to be in the know. The bill was made to allow unchecked fear to perpetuate around queer identities, support negative stereotypes, and manage how people live their life.
No child is truly endangered by learning about queer identites. The parents endorsing this law do not worry for their children’s education. They worry on how to uphold the system that has enabled them to stay on top.