South Florida students and teachers are protesting the 'Don't Say Gay' bill
Students, teachers, allies and activists across South Florida are mobilizing against the Parental Rights in Education bill, which they say will stifle support for LGBTQ students — some of whom feel they can only be themselves at school.
Samantha Herrera is a twelfth grader at BioTECH High School. She worries the bill will threaten the acceptance she and others have found at school.
“It’s very hard being in a class where like you’re scared ... I don’t want to get teary eyed, but like, you’re there all the time. You’re there like eight hours. And just depending on what someone in power can say,” she said.
The measure would ban classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation for students in kindergarten through third grade, and for kids in other grades if the discussion is not considered “age appropriate”.
The bill would also guarantee that schools will update parents on major changes to their students’ health and wellbeing, which critics fear may compel staff to out students to their families without their consent.
Today is a day of action for students, teachers and LGBTQ allies in South Florida who are protesting a measure dubbed the Don't Say Gay bill.— Kate Payne (@hellokatepayne) March 1, 2022
In a campaign organized by @safeschools1991, folks are organizing rallies and wearing purple to show their support. @WLRN https://t.co/yvQSFxlsnc
According to the Tampa Bay Times, one of the bill’s sponsors has said he’s aiming to strike down policies in Palm Beach and Broward counties that discourage schools from outing a student to their parents.
Natasha Poulopoulos is a pediatric psychologist in the Jackson Health System, where she sees firsthand the struggles of children who feel their safety would be at risk if they were open about their gender identity or sexual orientation.
She says the bill will “induce harm” on kids already at a higher risk for experiencing violence and victimization.
“This bill is just going to further perpetuate stigma and hate and discrimination and no child deserves that,” Poulopoulos said. “We are in a child mental health crisis. And instead of passing bills that support our youth, we have legislation going against our youth.”
The rally in Miami Beach was part of a day of action organized by Safe Schools South Florida, a group that provides leadership training and coaching for teachers and students. Across South Florida on Tuesday, opponents of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill wore the color purple and took to social media to make their voices heard.
Students at iPrep Academy in Miami held a rally in the school’s cafeteria, where they called out state lawmakers supporting the proposal.
“Vote them out!” the students chanted. “Vote them out!”
South Florida Safe Schools Executive Director Scott Galvin says the bill has pushed a new generation of Floridians to engage in the political process.
“Even if this law does pass in a couple of weeks, what the powers that be in Tallahassee are overlooking, is that this has created a new era of activism,” Galvin said.