Florida withdraws 'Don't Say Gay' bill amendment that required schools to out LGBTQ+ students

The amendment would have forced school officials to out students to their parents within six weeks after acknowledging their sexual orientation or gender identity.

A teacher's back while they're facing a class of children. Florida has withdrawn a bill amendment that would require teached to out their students
Image: Pexels

A Florida lawmaker has withdrawn an amendment to the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill that prohibits discussions about LGBTQ+ topics in school. The amendment would have required teachers and school officials to ‘out’ students to their parents within six weeks after having discovered they are LGBTQ+.

The controversial measure was proposed by State Rep. Joe Harding on February 18 and it would have forced school officials and teachers to disclose information about students’ gender identity or sexual orientation to their parents. A previous version of the bill included exemptions to this requirement in case there was suspicion that disclosing such information to the parents could lead to a child’s abuse, neglect or abandonment, but the exemptions were removed with the introduction of the amendment.

The amendment explicitly stated that “the school principal or his or her designee shall develop a plan, using all available governmental resources, to disclose such information within [six] weeks after the decision to withhold such information from the parent.”

The ‘Don’s Say Gay’ bill is part of a Parental Rights in Education proposal that has already sparked international outrage since first being introduced because it virtually prohibits discussion about queer identities and histories. LGBTQ+ advocates say that the bill tells students their sexual orientation and/or gender identity is something they should be ashamed of and should keep hidden. Human Rights Watch has extensively documented how these types of curricular restrictions are harmful to LGBTQ+ youth, in that they prevent students from accessing vital information about themselves and also encourage intolerance and bullying from peers.

State Rep. Joe Harding who had originally introduced the amendment requiring educators to ‘out’ children to their parents said it was introduced with the intention of reinforcing “the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding upbringing and control of their children”. However, after facing huge backlash from activists and public opinion, he withdrew the amendment on Tuesday 22, right before the House of Representatives was set to discuss the bill. In a statement about his decision, he claimed: “Rather than battle misinformation related to the amendment, I decided to focus on the primary bill that empowers parents to be engaged in their children’s lives”.

This reasoning fails to recognise that in some cases disclosing such information to parents does not lead to an improvement in the child’s wellbeing. Moreover, by giving families the power to sue educators if discussions on queer topics happen in school, the bill could deter teachers from supporting their LGBTQ+ students, which would result in increased isolation.

President Biden has also spoken out against the bill, condemning it as “hateful” and making the following promise to LGBTQ+ kids in Florida: “I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve.”

The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in Florida and this controversial amendment are not the only worrying news coming from the US. 2021 was a record year for the introduction of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and several states are following this trend even this year.

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