House Bill 1557 passed the Florida House of Representatives Thursday after drawing national ire. The bill, dubbed by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” moves toward formalizing parents’ rights in their children’s education, and its passage provided yet another source of controversy involving conservative state lawmakers and the nation’s top office holder.
The bill effectively bars the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identify in classrooms for kindergarten to grade 3 students. It also allows for parents to be notified of “specified information” concerning their child and reinforces the “fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding upbringing & control of their children.” Under the bill’s provisions, school staff may not encourage children to withhold certain information from their parents. According to the bill’s text, parents also reserve the right to receive notification by the school district of any health services provided to their child(ren) and the retain the ability to access their child(ren)’s health records.
While the bill seeks to codify parental rights and a provides parents a semblance of control over their children’s education, opponents see the bill as discriminatory. The White House, via Twitter, denounced the bill as “hateful,” calling the legislation “an attack on LGBTQI+ kids.” President Biden took to Twitter also to offer his support to LGBTQI+ students, stating, “know that you are loved and accepted just as you are.” Chasten Buttigieg, spouse of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, likewise joined in criticism of the bill, accusing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis of “purposely making your state a harder place for LGBTQ kids to survive in.”
Opponents additionally claimed the bill effectively prevents spontaneous discussions in the classroom on the topics relating to LGBTQ lifestyles and identities. Republican Joe Harding, who sponsored the bill, denied this assumption, however: “Nowhere in here are we eliminating a discussion about the different types of families. I think that’s probably the biggest misquote on what the bill actually does.” While DeSantis has not said if he will sign the bill, he did affirm the bill’s provisions at an event earlier this month, where he suggested it is “entirely inappropriate” for educators and school administrators to have conversations with students on their gender identities.