The Parental Rights in Education bill, BH 1557, more commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, has passed through the Florida Senate. The controversial bill heads to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s desk next, where it’s expected to gain his signature approval and be made into official law.
The highly controversial bill received heavy criticism and sparked protests at schools throughout the state, with experts warning of the potential harm that could come if the bill were passed. But the bill went through the Republication-controlled state’s House of Representatives with a 69-47 vote. Just after the bill was proposed, Governor DeSantis offered his endorsement of the Parental Rights in Education bill while speaking at an event in Miami on Feb. 7, so it’s very likely that he will sign it.
Here’s everything parents need to know about this bill and what it might mean for kids.
What does the Don’t Say Gay bill mean for families?
The bill would limit what classrooms and schools can teach about gender identity and sexual orientation. It would also outline how schools and teachers could be held accountable should they do so.
The bill effectively bans teachers and schools from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity to young students, specifically kids in kindergarten through grade 3. The law is far-reaching, meaning even a gay teacher would be unable to discuss their own family in the classroom without breaking the law.
The bill would allow parents to take legal action against the school district and sue if these topics were discussed under the idea that their “fundamental rights” as a parent were violated. In addition, the bill would require an implementation of “procedures to reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children.”
Since the bill uses language that talks about teaching “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for schools,” many critics have warned that this language could be interpreted to extend to all school grade levels beyond grade 3.
LGBTQ + activists and advocates slammed the decision to move the bill forward, saying it’s directly harmful to queer and transgender youth and perpetuates bullying, marginalization, and shunning while lacking inclusion in the classrooms.
According to NBC News, students across Florida participated in school walkouts to protest against the bill last week. “The language and the supporters of the bill and the rhetoric around the bill really shows what this bill is, and it’s an attempt to hurt queer people like me,” high school senior Jack Petocz said. Jack told the publication that he had been suspended “indefinitely” for distributing Pride flags for the rally after the principal said not to.
“It’s really exhausting as a queer person in Florida trying to fight against everything going on,” Jack says. “I should be focused on my schoolwork, not the GOP trying to police our education.”
I want every member of the LGBTQI + community – especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill – to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are. I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve. https://t.co/OcAIMeVpHL
– President Biden (@POTUS) February 8, 2022
The Biden administration has also denounced the bill as anti-LGBTQ + and vowed to fight for the community’s rights. “I want every member of the LGBTQI + community – especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill – to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are,” President Joe Biden said in a Twitter post on Feb. 8.
Several other states, including Montana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas all have laws similar to Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill.
What’s the next step down the line for the bill?
Since the bill passed the Florida Senate, it’s now headed to DeSantis’ desk for final approval and to be officially signed. Given his vocal support of the bill back in February and more recently this week, the most likely outcome is that DeSantis will continue his support and sign the bill. It will likely go into effect in July of this year.