Students speak on Florida’s controversial ‘Parents Rights’ Bill

by Nicholas Neikon Ebadat , Staff Writer

Starting July 1, the controversial “Parental Rights in Education” bill will prohibit classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for kindergarten through third-grade Florida students and will require “age appropriate” instruction after third grade, according to Florida’s government.

In a Public Opinion Strategies poll, a sample of 1000 Americans demonstrated 61% of registered voters support the actual language of the bill. Former Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard reportedly sides with the bill, against others in the party, suggesting it be expanded to “protect” children through 12th grade or not at all.

Sarah Buttress is a sophomore at San Diego State majoring in Public Health and identifies as bisexual. She recounted instances when she heard of parents saying homosexuality is something they don’t want their child to see that are connected to the bill’s origin in her opinion.

“I think that’s where the root of it bothers me. If we don’t want to talk about sexuality or gender orientation at all, that is incredibly general and it just doesn’t work like that,” Buttress said. “To people who say that it isn’t targeting anyone and they just don’t want any sexual talk whatsoever: Great. Don’t show a movie where straight people kiss then.”

The bill has become infamous as critics dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.  Two LGBTQ advocacy groups filed a lawsuit stating it negatively impacts an already marginalized community by forcing them to look for support only at home, rather than having multiple avenues of affirming care. They contend with the state education law by pointing to data showing lower rates of LGBTQ+ suicide attempts with more supportive spaces.

SDSU freshman, Kylee Kyte, majors in Social Work and identifies as queer. She said she was aware homophobia still exists, but was hopeful to be past the point of it being in legislation before the bill was signed.

“We had the Supreme Court case that protected trans individuals in the workplace, and so after that happened I said ‘okay, we’re going to start seeing a flood of legislation and a flood of systemic changes that would be good for the LGBTQ community,’ but then this bill happened and I was like ‘oh no, we’re still in the middle of all this,’” Kyte said.

In response to the policy, Florida teachers began to take the vague wording of the bill literally by removing any reference to gender or sexual orientation from the classroom by threatening to use only they/them pronouns for students and asking to be called “Mx” rather than Mr/Mrs. They also stated they will be removing any material with reference to a mother or father and will not speak of their spouse as husband/wife in the classroom.

“I think there should be a double standard, but I also just think I’m not really sure what we are trying to ban from classrooms if there was a double standard,” Buttress said.  “I can’t even remember a time in second or third grade where I looked back and said ‘that was really inappropriate to learn about.’”