When I taught kindergarten, I spent between seven to 10 hours a day with my students. I came to know everything about them — who liked to read, whose favorite color was blue. And I also knew who didn’t get enough to eat, who was struggling with the incarceration of a parent, who was experiencing homelessness.
I still remember all their names (and favorites). What I don’t remember was telling my young students is, “don’t worry, you don’t have to pick your gender yet.” Nor do I remember teaching LGBTQ+ propaganda from secret lesson plans. Or breaking Florida law by telling parents that they may not review our classroom materials or curricula.
Because — despite our governor’s insistence — it didn’t happen then, and it doesn’t happen now.
Yet the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature has just passed a bill that would bring George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984, a step closer to reality. CS 1557, more colloquially known as the “don’t say gay” bill, prohibits teachers in grades K-3 from discussing the perfectly legal, acceptable, constitutionally protected and more-common-than-ever institution of marriage for same sex couples.
With the passage of this ill-conceived measure, not only might teachers be punished for allowing classroom discussion about a student’s own family structure, but children with LGBTQ+ family members will be ostracized and shamed by the very institutions that should be supporting and protecting them. Cloaked in words like “freedom” and “parental rights,” this bill is a dangerous solution in search of a problem that will harm Florida’s children while opening school districts across the state to frivolous taxpayer-funded lawsuits.
Once again, conservatives who say they aim to limit the size of government and its impact on personal freedoms think nothing of governing in the classroom if the policies align with their beliefs. The very premise of the bill insults and demonizes educators and hinders their ability to teach.
I have deep concerns for the safety of students who identify as LGBTQ+ if we create a dangerous environment where discussion about gender and sexual identity is feared. Our teachers create safe havens for students to learn and grow, not call into question their “sex-coded DNA” as right-wing pundits would have us believe.
As if growing up wasn’t hard enough, LGBTQ+ students suffer more than their heterosexual peers from eating disorders, thoughts of suicide, bullying, discrimination and a whole host of mental health issues. This measure promises to exacerbate the wellbeing of students by shaming them into silence about any topic related to their natural development.
Spend your days with Hayes
Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
This bill does not represent the will of the people but instead infringes on our freedoms. Florida’s students, families and educators deserve more than this, Republicans’ latest brand of legalized discrimination.