HB 1557 – “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

The purpose of this blog has always been to tell the truth regardless of who it might offend. The truth is all that matters when we weigh and measure all the various issues that take place in the course of our lives. However, I don’t relish controversy or inflammatory posts simply to get attention, likes or angry responses. There’s no bad press as they used to say. But I will leave that to all of the other social media writers who enjoy drumming up controversy. My purpose again is simply to find the truth. Not from a left or right perspective but by weighing each issue on its own merits.

I look at an issue by researching it. I never read what other people write and draw my conclusions based on their conclusions. That doesn’t mean I don’t read various papers or articles from scholars I respect, but I do my own homework and draw my conclusions accordingly. I have a master’s degree in Public Administration (MPA) which required me to write a thesis and to present it. There are those who argue that higher education is unnecessary. It’s too expensive and there’s many ways to earn money without the degree. But I disagree. Education teaches you how to disseminate information and how to make a cogent argument based on facts, not emotions. It’s just one of many reasons why we, as a country, find ourselves so divided.

Looking at this Florida “don’t say gay” bill, it’s not a difficult bill to read or understand. It’s only seven pages long so I highly suggest everyone read it and then decide on whether it should be labeled, “don’t say gay.” In HB 1557, Section 3 the bill states, “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” Sexual orientation and gender are also mentioned in the preamble to the bill.

The main issue with his bill is that it singles out sexual orientation and gender. So, I would absolutely agree that this bill legitimately can be referred to as the “don’t say gay” bill, even though the word gay is never specifically referenced. It singles out two specific subsets and makes them off limit topics. As a parent, I would not have wanted my children to learn anything about sex in kindergarten. I believe, as is my right, children should be focused on learning the alphabet, how to read, basic math concepts and play time. Sex in any fashion is inappropriate for young children in a school setting. So, it should have been all-inclusive on sexuality of any kind and gender, if that was the intention.

I recognize that there are those who will say the bill is unfair to the one or two children who may have questions. While I’m sensitive to that, it’s the parents’ responsibility to answer those questions not the schools. This is 2022 and hopefully we’re reached a point in time when parents don’t disown their kids for being gay or transgender. But that’s between parents and their kids, particularly at the ages of 5, 6 or 7 years of age. The difficulty of this issue is that it weighs two different opinions and there are no right or wrong opinions when it comes to personal decisions. One side might say, I want my child to be able to discuss this in school and the other might say, I don’t want my child at that age, discussing these complex topics outside of my home. There is no correct answer here, only opinions.

The second issue, which may be more troubling is that the bill is so broad. Where is the line drawn on what can be discussed in class? The sponsors of the bill say it doesn’t stop teachers from discussing their gay families or the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016. It merely says that sexual identity and gender can’t be taught in the classroom. But how does one teach about relevant topics regarding a mass murder at a gay nightclub without discussing what it means to be gay? And if a teacher discusses that as part of an overall larger lesson, would he/she/they be subject to legal prosecution or firing from their position? That remains to be seen. This will unquestionably come up in the future.

While I agree that topics of sexuality, (whether gay or straight) and gender in the early grades is inappropriate, I believe the intent of Florida lawmakers regarding this bill was mean spirited and discriminatory. It should not have passed in its current form and should be legally challenged. While we all have our own opinions on divisive topics, we should all be able to agree that inclusion is far better than exclusion. Ignoring reality never solves problems. Perhaps the next generation or the one following that, will be able to reach a consensus on these complex issues that divide us.

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