Florida’s Senate has passed a bill which will ban discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity in primary schools
BY NIC CROSARA, IMAGE BY ANNA SHVETS VIA PEXELS
Lawmakers in Florida have advanced a bill that would bar teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom. The Parental Rights In Education has been dubbed as by those who oppose it as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Not only does the bill prohibit teachers, it also extends to counselling support services and gives parents the power to sue schools directly if they believe an educator has violated the measure. The bill was passed by Florida’s House Of Representatives on 24 February and the state Senate on 8 March. If signed into law, its legislation would come into effect from 1 July. On 7 March, protests took place inside the Capitol building and thousands of students across the state staged a walkout to protest the legislation.
On 9 March White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, addressed the bill, referring to it as a “form of bullying” and stating that it “would discriminate against families, against kids, put these kids in a position of not getting the support they need at a time where that’s exactly what they need.”
On the same day the Florida Senate passed the bill, Georgia lawmakers introduced the measure of their own new bill the Common Humanity In Private Education Act. Georgia’s new bill would mean that no private classroom would be able to “promote, compel, or encourage classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not appropiate for the age and developmental stage of the student.” Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas all currently have legislations on the table that explicitly limit or prohibit LGBTQI sex education. A recent CNN analysis shows that more than 150 anti-LGBTQI bills have been introduced so far this year.
Our UK readers will know that these new bills echo that of Section 28, a 1998 law that prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities. Whilst it was only in effect from 1988 to 2000 in Scotland and 2003 in England and in Wales, it’s legacy and the damage it caused are still very much felt to this day. Near the end of 2021, results from research commissioned by Just Like Us were published which showed that one in five teachers reported being uncomfortable discussing LGBTQI topics with pupils. At the time of the poll results, Dominic Arnall, Chief Executive of Just Like Us said: “Today marks 18 years since Section 28 was repealed in England yet clearly things have not changed as much as we like to think and, as a result, growing up LGBT+ is still unacceptably tough.” It took over a decade to repeal Section 28 and it will take a long time to heal the wounds dealt to a generation of LGBTQI youth, and their teachers.
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