“Don’t Say Gay” Bill

Bill 1557: Florida Parental Rights in Education Bill is more than what it seems.


Chandan Khanna/AFP

Protesters rally against the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill in Miami Beach on March 13.

Liliana Segovia, Managing & Design Editor

Note: Article written before amendments or voting. 

On January 20, 2022 the House of Education and Employment committee met and discussed bill 1557: The Florida Parental Rights in Education bill. The House Judiciary Committee will vote on the bill and if approved it will go to the house floor. 

Representative Joe Harding, from Florida district 22,  presented the bill, that states as on the Florida House of Representatives website it “Requires district school boards to adopt procedures that comport with provisions of law for notifying student’s parent of specified information; requires procedures to reinforce fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding upbringing & control of their children; provides requirements for such procedures, school districts, & personnel; requires DOE to review & update specified materials.”

In short, school districts must communicate with parents more about what their child is being taught and any changes made to the child’s wellbeing in the school setting. If the parent is not notified and they find out through the child or other means, they have the right to sue the school district. 

Section three of the bill stated, “A school district may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.” This part of the bill is where most arguments against it come from, as well as the nickname. 

The wording is vague, for example, the use of ‘primary grades’ is undefined, though in arguments brought up in the house they described it as kindergarten through grade 5. Another undefined part is the use of ‘or’ stating that there may be no talk of sexual orientaion “in primary grades or in a manner that is not age-appropriate” for students. Arguments arose about the person who decides what is age-appropriate. 

Representative Harding defended his bill and most notably brought up that the bill is about school/district procedures and initiating conversations relating to sexual orientation and gender identity. 

“We are talking about a specific situation where a teacher is encouraging or initiating conversation through a procedure or something the school is doing. The bill is saying that if something happens with the way the student is treated in that school, and there is a change being made and the parent is not involved or alerted,” Harding said.

Most public testimonies were against the bill, the biggest proponent was John Harris Maurer who is the Public Policy Director of Equality Florida, an organization dedicated to securing full equality to the LGBTQIA+ community. 

“LGBTQ people are a normal healthy part of our society. We’re parents, students and teachers. We are your brothers and sisters. Conversations about us are not something that should be banned, it is deeply prejudicial and it sends a terrible message to our young people,” Maurer said. 

Maurer decribed the consequences of LGBTQ students who may not have a support system at home finding safety in school, but that safety being taken away by the bill. The LGBTQ advocates felt targeted as the language of the bill only mentions a ‘controversial’ topic like sexual orientation and gender identity, but nothing of other topics like religion or race. They believe that the bill will be a step back in the LGBTQ support and normalization of those topics.

Supporters of the bill gloss over the ‘anit LGBTQ’ statements and chose to focus on the fundamental rights of the parents to know what is going on in their child’s life and be involved in their education. They believe that the school should not take up the role of a parent and only teach kids hard facts. 

“I can have discussions about sexuality at home, and algebra [in reference to his son passing algebra and 70% of the kids in the state did not], but a lot of parents can’t do the latter. So we need schools to be focused on teaching kids what only schools can do and leave this stuff up to parents to have those discussions with their children,” Representative of District 53 and father of two Randy Fine said.

House bill 1557 is an attack on the LGBTQ community pretending to be a bill for more parental involvement with a child’s education in school. No one should support the bill until the anti-LGBTQ statements are taken out and the bill is truly about having parents be more involved with their children’s education and well being at school.