Florida's Don't Say Gay law officially goes into effect today, here's how schools are already updating policies to accommodate it.
Although most students are enjoying their summer break and preparing for 4th of July festivities, Florida schools are preparing for the 2022-2023 school year. Instead of just focusing on preparing classrooms and ensuring that staffing issues are fixed before classes start, many districts are working to accommodate the state’s new law regarding how sexual education is taught, which goes into effect today. Termed the “don’t say gay” bill by some, it requires teachers to adhere to parental rights and avoid teaching sexuality and sexual education before students reach the 4th grade.
In preparation for today’s implementation, many schools have advised teachers to remove sensitive content. While some teachers in other states have used LGBTQ flashcards to teach preschoolers the colors of the rainbow, and other districts have even encouraged children to switch genders without contacting parents, Florida teachers are no longer allowed to bring identity politics into classrooms filled with young students. Because young children will no longer be forced to sit through drag queen story hour, some teachers are frustrated against the “don’t say gay” policy, but others claim that the schools are flat out attacking LGBTQ rights.
Officials from the Orange County Teacher Association publicly accused schools of telling teachers that they are not allowed to wear rainbows, and that teachers are no longer allowed to place pictures of same-sex spouses on their desks. Nowhere in HB1557 are teachers restricted from sharing color patterns or placing a photo of a loved one in their personal teaching space, but because so many people claim that it is a “don’t say gay” policy, some schools may fear encouraging gay teachers to express themselves. Despite the allegations, no evidence of schools banning gay teachers or their photos have been offered.
The Palm Beach County school district did present educators with a survey regarding the new law. They were asked to weed out inappropriate books and teaching materials for students deemed too young to be taught identity politics. Two gender-centric children’s books have already been removed from these area schools which have caused some dissent surrounding “don’t say gay” fears.
Just this week, the Leon County School Board unanimously voted on a new LGBTQ inclusion guide. Like HB 1557, it does not tell anyone “don’t say gay,” but merely works to keep parents informed and disallow sexual educational instruction for K-3 students. Furthermore, this new policy instructs schools to contact parents if a child is questioning their identity. This helps families to offer their children the proper guidance and support as opposed to allowing school officials, who have no legal claim over children, to confidentially aid children in moving to make life-altering decisions without parental consent.
While opponents of HB 1557 continue to claim that it pushes “don’t say gay” policies, some parents are celebrating the preservation of their children’s innocence. Many who oppose sexual education and identity politics being taught to young children simply believe that kids are too young to understand these complex concepts. Affording little girls and boys the opportunity to have fun and learn the basics of life’s lessons, without confusing them with rare challenges, is now the focus of Florida schools and they are updating lessons to accommodate that.