Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 1557, "Parental Rights in Education"—or, as it's become known to opponents, the "Don't Say Gay" bill—into law on Monday. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Joe Harding (R-Williston) prohibits classroom instruction and discussion by school personnel or third parties about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, and has the potential to restrict similar instruction for older students.
Per the bill, schools will be required to let parents know when a child receives mental, emotional or physical health services, unless school personnel believe there is a risk of “abuse, abandonment, or neglect” to the child. Parents will have have the right to opt out of counseling and health services for their children, and can sue schools for violating the bill (individual school districts would be forced to cover the costs of lawsuits). The state will also have to rewrite its state counseling framework.
The bill has drawn criticism both locally and nationally, with Disney workers participating in walkouts, students and LGBTQ organizations—including Project Pride SRQ—staging protests, and celebrities and actvists speaking out against it.
“LGBTQ youth are at higher risk of self-harm than the general teenage population,” Mary Tavarozzi, board chair of Sarasota’s ALSO Youth, told us earlier this year. According to the Trevor Project, LGBTQ youth face significant disparities in suicide risk compared to their straight and cisgender peers, based largely on the ways they are treated in their broader environment. Fifty-nine percent of LGBTQ middle and high school students said they felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, 37 percent because of their gender and 42 percent because of their gender expression.
DeSantis, for his part, fired back at critics at a news conference on Monday, saying, "They’re doing it because they actually support injecting woke gender ideology into second-grade classrooms," according to the Tampa Bay Times.