‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill harms children

Written By Brooke Stephens, Co-Opinions Editor

On February 24, Florida’s House of Representatives passed a bill which would stop the discussion of LGBTQIA+ topics in schools and is now being considered in Florida’s Senate. Representative Joe Harding introduced the bill, entitled “Parental Rights in Education,” and claims it will allow parents to “improve the quality of children’s lives.”

Ironically, this bill will do nothing short of harming the quality of many young children’s lives.
Research conducted over the years by multiple agencies and psychologists has overwhelmingly pointed to an expontentially high suicide rate among LGBTQIA+ youth compared to the rest of their peers, which has several contributing factors: A lack of acceptance about sexual orientation or gender identity, stress related to rejection, discrimination and conversion therapy — an inhumane practice that is legal at a statewide level in 22 states and still partially legal in several others. Kids who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community are also particuarly vulnerable in other ways. LGBTQIA+ youth in Florida ages 13-24 made up 35% of homeless youth in Florida in 2018.

For LGBTQIA+ youth who have unaccepting parents, school can be one of the few places they can safely discuss their orientation or identity without fear of verbal or physical abuse. In these cases, teachers can actually have the children’s best interest in mind, rather than the parents.

Originally included in the bill was an amendment where Florida school district officials would have to tell parents if they knew or found out a student identified as any other orientation besides heterosexual within six weeks.

Six weeks. After a little over a month, a student could be abused by their family. After over a month, a student could be kicked out of their house. After over a month, a child could be killed because of who they are. This is not an improvement, but only an opportunity for the Florida legislature to destroy closested children’s lives.

The amendment to the bill was revoked, but it is absolutely unacceptable and inherently wrong to even consider a law that would force a school to announce to a family that their child is not “straight.”

There is unclear wording throughout the bill, especially in regard to the target age group. According to National Public Radio, discussions in fourth through twelfth grade about the LGBTQIA+ community are supposed to be limited. Parents could decide to remove their child from a lecture if the content involved any talk of sexuality or gender identity.

High school students have started walkouts as a form of protest to show their support for the LGBTQIA+ community. A Florida student who organized the protests, Jack Petocz, has been suspended from his school for supplying pride flags which were waved peacefully. It was said to be offensive to other people.

I want everyone to read through those last two sentences again. Expressing a symbol of identity peacefully was seen as disrespectful to straight people. If you are genuinely that insecure and obsessive about who someone is, or is trying to be, I would recommend self-reflection and self-education regarding the community, respectfully.

As a reminder to every adult thinking that LGBTQIA+ community has only been around for as long as we have openly talked about it; No, they were not roommates. They were not best friends. They were lovers, significant others and partners. They hid, they were jailed, they were forced into hard labor, they were killed. LGBTQIA+ historical figures deserve the recognition in classrooms for their achievements in a time where being themselves was simply not an option anywhere. And LGBTQIA+ children today deserve to know others like them have always existed and that they can fully be themselves.

“Protecting” children is a completely different initiative. Taking away their willingness and ability to talk about people who they might be like and do not yet have the language for — that is wrong. Florida students may grow up confused and hopeless or face even worse outcomes if the Senate does not successfully reject the bill in its entirety.

Florida is roughly 1,000 miles away from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is not another country creating the “Don’t Say Gay” bill; it is on our ground.

So all that said, if you care about LGBTQIA+ kids in Florida — , say gay.