New Florida law bans LGBTQ+ topics from classroom discussions | Communities

Sexual orientation and gender identity are no longer allowed to be taught in kindergarten through third grade in Florida public schools, after Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights Bill into law in Florida. education on March 28. Known by its opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the legislation includes two main points of contention: banning sexual orientation and gender identity education in public school classrooms until after grade three – with the possibility of extension to grade 12 – and impose parental notification requirements on educators.

The bill was passed to allow parents to determine when and how to introduce topics related to the LGBTQ+ community to their children. This supports the conservative ideology that LGBTQ+ topics are inappropriate for young children. Opponents disagree. “That’s not what’s taught in kindergarten or third grade,” said science teacher Brett Bentley. “Students learn that it’s okay to be who you are. They’re not talking about sex, they’re talking about family structures, and those family structures come in all different shapes and sizes and they’re all good.

According to NPR, at a press conference before signing the law, DeSantis said teaching young children that “they can be whatever they want to be” is “inappropriate.” His ideas add to the precedent already set in Florida by the law prohibiting sex education before fifth grade. “We don’t hide the heteroseity,” junior Lunah Schleret said in response to DeSantis’ remarks. “People talk about their parents, their mother and their father, they talk about their boyfriend and their girlfriend, and we talk about them in romance novels. I think this openness should be extended to the homosexuality in the same way.

Students fear that the bill negatively affect the mental health of LGBTQ+ children. According to the Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ children face higher health and suicide risks than their cisgender and straight peers. “If students don’t have a support system at home and they lose the opportunity for school to be a support system, their feelings of not fitting in and being accepted will intensify” , said Leo Hertzler.

When introduced to spaces that affirm their gender identity and sexuality, children report lower rates of suicide attempts. Yet the bill’s parental notification requirements ensure that schools are no longer safe spaces for children whose families are unsupportive of them. “I would never want to be part of it” said Bentley. “My goal with all of my students is to help them be the best version of themselves that they can be. So, I wouldn’t want to release a child who is not ready to be released. There is no there’s no way they’d be comfortable learning from me after that. And it would be unethical to do that, in my opinion.

Students believe that instead of restricting access to education about sexual orientation and gender identity from an early age, schools should encourage it in order to help children better understand the world that surrounds them. “My uncle was gay and died of an AIDS-related lung infection, so my mom was always very open about that,” Schleret said. “I think it was good to have learned these subjects so young, because it was my feeling growing up, to be open and to accept everyone.”

Although the bill would only be effective in Florida, if a similar bill were passed in Maryland, the effects would ripple throughout the community. “If something along the lines of the ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill’ were passed in Maryland, I would definitely reach out to various lawmakers,” sophomore Jax Kobey said. “I would definitely feel bad about it, but it would only make me talk more.”

At the end of the 2020-21 school year, Kobey lobbied for the installation of gender-neutral bathrooms at school. In quick response, Principal Kimberly Boldon authorized the installation of two gender-neutral bathrooms at the start of this school year: one on the first floor in the arts hallway and one on the second floor near the English classrooms. “If a bill similar to the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill were passed, it would take away everything Jax fought for,” Schleret said.