The Senate is set Tuesday to wade into a fight about a controversial proposal that critics have dubbed the “don’t say gay” bill because it could affect discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity in schools.
The proposal (SB 1834), filed by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee. The overall bill includes issues such as requiring school districts to notify parents of any changes to students’ services or monitoring of students’ mental or physical health. But part of the bill dealing with discussions about sexual orientation and gender has riled LGBTQ advocates and invited the moniker “don’t say gay.”
That part of the bill says, “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.”
Parents could file lawsuits against school districts for violations of the bill.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has made parental involvement in education a rallying cry, endorsed the measure on Monday.
“We’ve seen instances of students being told by different folks in school, ‘Oh, well, don’t worry, don’t pick your gender yet, do all this other stuff.’ They won’t tell the parents about these discussions that are happening. That is entirely inappropriate,” DeSantis said during an appearance in Miami. DeSantis characterized the bill as part of “transparency legislation” that Republicans are “really working on” this session.
“We want parents to be able to have access to what’s going on in the classroom. And certainly it is inappropriate to be hiding these things from parents,” the governor said.
A similar House measure (HB 1557) has advanced from the Education & Employment Committee and needs approval from the Judiciary Committee before it could go to the House floor. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat who is gay, criticized the measure as sending a “dangerous message” that conversations about the LGBTQ community should not be allowed.
“It’s going to have, really, a chilling effect on the ability of school districts to continue with LGBTQ-inclusive policies that create positive educational environments for our youth,” Smith said during a news conference held by House Democrats.