Florida’s House of Representatives passed the Parental Rights in Education bill on January 20to protect the rights of parents with children in the public school system.
The legislation was coined the name “Don’t Say Gay” bill because of its restrictive actions against the LGBTQ+ community by attempting to prohibit the discussion of self-identification in classrooms.
The bill states, “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.”
Many organizations have petitioned against the bill including Chasten Buttigieg, the spouse of United States Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
“This will kill kids,” said Buttigieg in a tweet. “You are purposefully making your state a harder place for LGBTQ+ kids to survive in.”
Buttigieg has confirmed that he will be lobbying for the bill’s dismissal in the next hearing.
“It’s scary for the kids that are in public school,” said Grayson Boyd, the president of UWG’s Queer Student Alliance (QSA). “There’s going to be a lot of problems and a lot of scared kids.”
QSA members are beginning to worry for the youth who may be affected by the bill for multiple reasons.
According to the Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ+ Youth Mental Health, “42% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.”
“As a whole, this bill tells us that we are shameful and that we are supposed to hide,” said Boyd. “A lot of people know that they are gay when they are kids and growing openly into adulthood with that confidence and knowledge is so important.
“I think that it’s so vital at the middle or early high school age for kids to figure themselves out,” Boyd continued. “You should be able to discuss, experiment and do weird things like dying your hair bad colors to help find your identity.”
In addition to Florida’s hostility towards the LGBTQ+ community, Georgia’s school system has also shown small acts of malice towards the community with a recent occurrence from Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary. A student’s artwork displaying the statement, “Gay is OK,” was taken down by the school’s administration and allegedly compared to Nazi symbolism.
“I think that we all know that it is hard to live in the south like this,” said Boyd. “It is hard for the kids who know that there are lawmakers out there making legislation directly against who they are as people, and it will be even harder for those kids who haven’t even figured out their identity yet.”
As the bill moves forward on its journey to becoming law in Florida, UWG’s QSA prepares for the possibility of it making an appearance in Georgia.
“Right now, we are specifically in talks with Carrollton High School and Carrollton Junior High and we are trying to support queer kids as best as we can,” said Boyd. “I sometimes think part of helping is just giving more support to the community.”
As of now, the bill is awaiting hearings with the House Judiciary Committee and Senate Education Committee.
“It’s going to be terrifying, and we’re just going to have to watch things unfold,” said Boyd. “We have to hope that kids will be getting the support they need at home.”