The “Don’t Say Gay” Bill


Free pride flag image, public domain LGBTQ CC0 photo.

Ashley Chan, Staff Writer

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 1557, which bans classroom instruction and discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in school. House Bill 1557 was created mainly because activists are concerned about how schools respond to questioning students about sexuality and gender identity.

This legislation has gained traction through the media, with Americans taking sides on the righteousness of this bill. Supporters have dubbed House Bill 1557 as the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, while opponents have deemed it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. 

The most controversial part of the entire bill is found in lines 97-101 and is the reason for the “Don’t Say Gay” nickname. It 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.” 

In essence, this means that instruction on gender and sexuality will be constrained in all grade levels, as long as Florida deems it inappropriate for students. 

With this new legislation, schools in Florida will be required to notify parents when their child receives health services, including mental, emotional, or physical. This parental-notification requirement applies to all students, regardless of whether or not they are seeking health services for gender issues, sexuality, mental health, substance use, parental challenges, and more. There is a section of the bill that gives school staff the right to skip informing parents of their child’s participation in these services if there is a risk of “abuse, abandonment, or neglect.” However, people still argue that this requirement for parental disclosure can motivate students to not approach counselors or health services when they need it. 

Counseling is also a prominent topic within House Bill 1557. There is a provision that requires schools to craft an opt-out procedure for health services, which includes individual counseling and support groups. Furthermore, there is an enforcement mechanism that holds schools accountable, in which parents could sue schools for violating the bill.As a result,districts have to cover the costs. Not only that, but also Florida’s Department of Education is going to review and update school counseling frameworks. 

These counseling frameworks contain the students’ rights to counseling programs that “‘[advocate] for and affirm diversity in ‘sexual orientation gender, gender identity/expression, family type’ and many other identity categories. The bill may influence the revision of such identity-promoting frameworks to strengthen parents’ rights over their children. 

LGBTQ+ activists and advocates have claimed that erasing LGBTQ+ presence in school instruction alludes to the idea that students should be ashamed by their gender identity or sexual orientation. 

Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of The Trevor Project, stated, “Lawmakers should be supporting LGBTQ students and their families and encouraging schools to be inclusive, not pitting parents against teachers and erasing the LGBTQ community from public education…When lawmakers treat LGBTQ topics as taboo and brand our community as unfit for the classroom, it only adds to the existing stigma and discrimination, which puts LGBTQ young people at greater risk for bullying, depression, and suicide.” 

The Biden administration has also deemed the bill anti-LGBTQ+. 

In a Twitter post on Feb. 8, President Biden said, “I want every member of the LGBTQ+ community — especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill — to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are.” 

Moreover, students, educators, and community members are openly speaking out against House Bill 1557. 

At Fort Walton Beach High School, “We Say Gay” was the battle cry of those refusing to accept the bill’s legislation. 

Lauren Sprenkle, the one responsible for the idea of holding Fort Walton Beach High School’s rally, remarked, “We understand that love is love, and everybody deserves love, and we respect everyone’s right to say what they want to say inside or outside of school.”

Defenders of the bill strongly believe that the legislation will not prohibit people from talking about gender identity and sexual orientation, and that it will only ban school instruction about those topics. 

DeSantis claimed, “We’re going to make sure that parents are able to send their kids to kindergarten without having some of this stuff injected into their school curriculum.” 

Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ spokesperson labeled the bill as the “anti-grooming bill”. She said, “If you’re against the anti-grooming bill, you are probably a groomer, or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children…Silence is complicity. This is how it works, Democrats, and I didn’t make the rules.” 

“What we’re preventing is a school district deciding they’re going to create a curriculum to insert themselves,” Florida Representative Joe Harding stated. “Families are families. Let the families be families. The school district doesn’t need to insert themselves at that point when children are still learning how to read and do basic math.” 

This polarized legislation continues to be debated, as activists worry  for the health of the LGBTQ+ community and supporters who firmly stand by the bill. 


Photo courtesy of RAWPIXEL.COM