Florida’s “Don’t say gay” bill promotes homophobia


Illustration by Vada Hepner/The Runner

Gisselle Gamez, Staff Writer

The “Don’t Say Gay” bill, formally known as the “Parental Rights in Education” bill was signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and will go into effect starting July 1, 2022. What is this bill exactly and what are its effects? This bill signed by Florida’s Republican Governor forbids teachers from including any kind of material regarding sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. This bill allows parents to sue if any subjects regarding LGBTQ+ are spoken of or taught to children.  

Many argue that enforcing such a law protects children from being “brainwashed” and allows for parents to teach their children about these matters on their own, but implementing a rule like this one only excludes young children who might feel they are part of the LGBTQ+ community and also promotes homophobia. Let’s be real, the parents who advocated for this bill will not be teaching their children acceptance of their peers.  

For some students, going to school is their safe space. It is a time for them to express themselves when they might not be able to do that during their time at home. Some teachers also bring a sense of comfort to students, they become someone that students can rely on for advice. This bill takes away all of those things for young children from Florida.  

In an article explaining what exactly Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill is set to do, reporter Richard Dahl included that “The bill’s supporters say it strengthens parental rights by preventing teachers and school staffers from withholding information about gender issues from parents. (An earlier version of the bill went even further, requiring principals to tell parents if a student came out as other than straight. That provision was pulled last month.)” A safe space has been taken from students in Florida and given to those who are opposed to LGBTQ+ rights and education, making students feel unheard. With the passing of this bill those who have strong, negative feelings about the matter might feel the freedom to act on their negative emotions.  

In NBC’s article “From book bans to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, LGBTQ kids feel ‘erased’ in the classroom,” sixteen-year-old Spencer Lyst, a member of the LGBTQ+ community told NBC about his experience at his school in Tennessee. NBC included “Teachers have skipped over LGBTQ issues in class textbooks. Trans kids in his state have been legally barred from competing on school sports teams that align with their gender identity. Parents have called on school officials to remove books about sexual orientation and gender identity from the county’s elementary curriculum. And while leading his school’s Pride club at a September homecoming parade, Lyst and other LGBTQ students were booed by a group of parents.” A bill like this one causes students to feel unsafe no matter the age because if it’s happening in Florida, it can happen anywhere. This could potentially be the start of a domino effect among states that share the same views.  

The year is 2022 and hearing about something like this is almost unbelievable. As someone who lives in California, one of the most liberal states in the country, hearing of someone skipping over LGBTQ+ issues in a history book or banning the pride flag is baffling. It’s easy to forget the privilege those of us who live in a state like California have when it comes to these issues. 

Teachers are put in an uncomfortable situation due to the signing of the bill. Helping students and being there for them academically and emotionally is a top priority for educators. Teachers in Florida are now forced to follow the law instead of caring about their students’ emotional well-being. How do educators know that this will be the only topic of discussion they ban in classrooms? “If they’re going after this conversation now, where does this stop? … I’m very fearful that this law is going to just open it up for a lot more things to start being discriminated against,” said first grade teacher Paula Stephens to writer, Melissa Block in an interview for NPR.com. The article titled “Teachers fear the chilling effect of Florida’s so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law,” also included: “Honestly, I feel like it’s just a blatant attack on education,” says Jorje Botello, who has taught eighth grade American history for 19 years at Osceola Middle School in rural Okeechobee, Fla. “A lot of these bills are written by people that have never set foot in a public education classroom.” 

Florida’s new bill should be concerning for everyone in America because it promotes homophobia everywhere and opens doors for other states to do the same. In the 21st century, it is astonishing that people are still voting and signing a bill like the “Parental Rights in Education” bill. This country needs to do better for the younger generations.