Opinion: “Don’t Say Gay” will have disastrous effects on Floridian students

Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act only “protects” students from truly knowing themselves

The+Parental+Rights+in+Education+Act%2C+commonly+known+as+the+%E2%80%9CDon%E2%80%99t+Say+Gay%E2%80%9D+bill%2C+has+come+under+fire+in+Florida+for+its+restriction+on+education+around+LGBTQ+topics.

Ted Eytan // CC BY-SA 4.0

The Parental Rights in Education Act, commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, has come under fire in Florida for its restriction on education around LGBTQ topics.

Content Warning: This article includes mentions of suicide, which may be upsetting to some readers.

The Parental Rights in Education Act, which was recently passed in Florida, has the potential to damage the well-being of students across the state, and possibly the country as well.

Popularly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the act has come under fire for its dangerous yet unclear restriction on teaching LGBTQ+ topics. While it started with school districts not being allowed to encourage discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in the classroom, the bill has since been amended to prohibit these discussions outright.

This regulation will be dangerous for many students who will no longer have the resources to learn about queer issues and identities. Not knowing who you are and thinking you are wrong and strange for it is one of the most isolating experiences one can have as an adolescent. School is one of the places where we students spend most of our time; not feeling affirmed or welcomed at school can damage our mental health. The feeling of shame from belonging to a group you cannot talk about in places where you are supposed to learn is overwhelming and often leaves us mentally devastated. A 2021 Trevor Project survey found that 42% of LGBTQ+ youth aged 13 to 24 seriously considered suicide in the U.S. The Trevor Project has also found that, when given access to LGBTQ+-friendly spaces, LGBTQ+ adolescents report lower rates of attempts of suicide. 

The Parental Rights in Education Act also “prohibits school district personnel from discouraging or prohibiting parental notification & involvement in critical decisions affecting students’ mental, emotional, or physical well-being,” making guidance counselors’ offices places where LGBTQ+ students could be outed to their parents. This is concerning, not just because some may have homophobic parents who could react poorly to the news. If these students are not ready for their parents to know about their sexuality or gender identity yet, it could be overwhelming for everyone involved. 

The definition of “critical decisions” is also entirely up to whomever a student is confiding in. Because of their personal views, some district members may be far more likely than others to tell parents things that their children may not necessarily want them to know. Leaving students’ welfare up to personal whim is extremely dangerous.

Hate often masquerades as protecting its victims. The Parental Rights in Education Act bans discussion of the LGBTQ+ community in certain grade levels to “protect” students from things they may not be ready to learn about and creates stricter rules on parental notification to “protect” students from making critical decisions regarding their own well-being. This bill is thinly veiled homophobia at its finest and will prove, in time, to be detrimental to LGBTQ+ students.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, talk to your guidance counselor or Carlmont Mental Health Specialist Shelley Bustamante, dial the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), or text HOME to 741741 for the Crisis Text Line.