It’s Okay to Say Gay

An Opinion Piece on Florida’s New Anti LGBTQ+ Law

Leah Hallwirth

Created in by Leah Hallwirth

Leah Hallwirth, Journalist

America is built on freedom of speech until you say something that somebody doesn’t like. Right now the Florida government has decided that this is the case for the LGBTQ+ community, specifically the youth in schools.

When the bill was released to the public many people in the LGBTQ+ community and allies began to worry about what additional changes the bill could bring. Due to the creation of the bill, many other states have begun considering anti LGBTQ+ legislation to be implemented. 

After thoroughly reading through the bill that can be found here, it would be a good addition to the school systems except for the fact that they chose to specifically bring the LGBTQ+ community into the discussion. The original motive for the bill was to promote more parental involvement in students’ lives while at school.

The bill states “requiring district school boards to adopt procedures that comport with certain provisions of law for notifying a student’s parent of specified information”. Why is now the time that people are deciding parents need more rights within schools, but not during the COVID 19 pandemic or when students are being bullied? Why choose to specifically target the LGBTQ+ community? 

While parts of this bill seem that they could benefit the Florida school system, I am a firm believer in the opinion that ignorance is not bliss and I believe that this same sentiment should be able to be applied to the youth in Florida and everywhere else. They should be allowed to be taught about all the parts of the world that they are old enough to hear and that includes the LGBTQ+ community. Not allowing the students to learn about this community that they could find safety and community in is just down right wrong. 

From my experience, school was always a good way to learn about other people’s life experiences that I wouldn’t be able to hear about in my own life and that is part of what this bill is trying to take away. Not only would this take away the ability for LGBTQ+ youth to learn more about themselves, it takes away from the rest of the students from knowing about an important community in the world they live in and building empathy from hearing the stories of others.

The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill mostly targets kindergarten through third grade students with parts of it discussing the topics of “sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels or in a specified manner”. The bottom line is that the starting grade level that the bill is targeting is kindergarteners and they should not be able to understand topics such as sexual orientation at their age.

Many parts of the bill focus on the importance of a safe learning environment without considering how the actions while at school could affect the students environment at home.“In accordance with the rights of parents enumerated in ss. 1002.20 and 1014.04, adopt procedures for notifying a student’s parent if there is a change in the student’s services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being and the school’s ability to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for the student.”

A safe and supportive learning environment for students is being able to feel comfortable at school and that includes LGBTQ+ youth feeling safe. Part of what this bill does is make these students feel like outcasts even more than they already may be feeling. 

“A school district may not adopt procedures or student support forms that prohibit school district personnel from notifying a parent about his or her student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being, or a change in related services or monitoring, or that encourage or have the effect of encouraging a student to withhold from a parent such information.” This is the same issue, outing a student to their parents almost always makes for an unsafe environment.

This bill is just the beginning for what Florida and other states can change in terms of LGBTQ+ legislation. The bill may mostly focus on kindergarten through third grade students, but with the vague wording that could change. Kindergarten through third grade is a really important time for students to learn about the world around them and gain more empathy but this bill is trying to take that away.

The ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill’ is trying to take away the ability for young students to learn about an important community and this hateful rhetoric needs to stop. Every student should not only have a safe learning environment at school but also the ability to learn about the world around them and more about themselves.