Don’t Say Gay


Joe Raedle

The “Don’t Say Gay” bill was signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday.

Momo Sutton, Reporter

As of March 28th, 2022, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill, HB 1557, into law. It will go into effect on July 1, 2022. This controversial legislation was nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by opponents due to the fact that the bill bans classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels or in an “inappropriate” manner.

“We will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination,” DeSantis said before he signed the bill during a ceremony at a preparatory school outside Tampa.

Republican politicians have said that HB 1557 is predominantly aimed at giving parents (guardians are not mentioned in the bill’s text) more control and rights over their children’s schooling. However, the language used by advocates of the bill to discuss the legislation has been perceived as inflammatory and anti-LGBTQIA+ by many– with Ron DeSantis himself saying in a press conference that telling children “They can be whatever they want to be” was inappropriate.

Conservatives argue that HB 1557 is needed in order to give parents greater oversight over what students learn and discuss at school, stressing that LGBTQIA+ related topics should be left for families to discuss at home. But opponents say that it would negatively impact an already marginalized community, pointing to data showing that LGBTQIA+ youth reported lower rates of attempting suicide when they had access to safe, affirming spaces.

Arguments against the bill point to the ways that it could harm teachers’ freedom of speech (particularly if they also happen to be LGBTQIA+ themselves), prevent LGBTQIA+ students from learning in an affirming environment and provoke further bullying and intolerance to these students.

Specifically, one controversial section, a “school district may not adopt procedures or student support forms that prohibit school district personnel from notifying a parent about his or her student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being unless the school staff determine that there is a risk to the child of “abuse, abandonment or neglect.” Basically, it requires districts to notify the parent if there is any change in the student’s services or monitoring related to the student’s well-being, something LGBTQIA+ advocates argue could lead to some students being outed to their parents without the student’s knowledge or consent.

Advocates also fear the law would restrict students’ ability to speak confidentially with school counselors- some of whom are a student’s sole resource for mental health services. The law’s opponents have also denounced a part of the legislation that allows parents to bring civil suits against a school district for any potential violation of its rules, saying it would open educators up to an endless barrage of litigation.

There is also the issue with the vague language of this bill: for example, bans discussion of gender identity and sexuality in ways that are not “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate,” of which guidelines and examples of what this means are not stated. It leaves too much open to interpretation and could make schools and educators overly vulnerable to being sued by parents. Due to this, individuals predict that schools may wish to completely avoid the risk of litigation and avoid even the smallest mention of LGBTQIA+ culture and issues.

Florida students staged walkouts and packed into committee rooms and statehouse halls to protest the measure. The Walt Disney Company, a powerful player in Florida politics, suspended its political donations in the state, and its theme park workers staged walkouts over what they considered to be a slow response against the bill from CEO Bob Chapek. He later apologized to his LGBTQIA+ employees, telling them, “You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry.”

The legislation has drawn scrutiny from Democrats in the state and elsewhere, including from President Joe Biden, who vowed earlier this year to protect LGBTQIA+ youth from such measures. Biden tweeted on Monday, “My Administration will continue to fight for dignity and opportunity for every student and family—in Florida and around the country.”