Too bad poor Ron DeSantis. He’s just trying to position himself for a presidential race by mashing that culture war button, but his stupid friends must have gone a little too far, and now the whole country is laughing at him.
Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which claims to give parents more control over their children’s education, is a hot mess. The “problem” it claims to “solve” is that teachers and counselors give students a space to discuss their sexuality without immediately disclosing it to their parents.
“We’ve seen cases of students being told by different people at school, ‘Oh, don’t worry, don’t choose your gender yet,'” Gov. DeSantis said Monday. “They will not tell parents about these discussions that are taking place. It is totally inappropriate. Schools must teach children to read and write.
And it would be bad enough if the law simply said schools had to refuse to talk to LGBTQ+ students about their struggles without telling their parents. As Chasten, the husband of Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, pointed out, this is a population of children who already face catastrophic rates of suicide and abuse, often because they are shunned by their families.
But the bill goes further, making it illegal for teachers to acknowledge the existence of homosexuality at all.
A school district may not encourage classroom discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity in the elementary grades or in a way that is not appropriate for the age or development of the students.
What is “age appropriate?” What is “development appropriate”? Who’s deciding ?
The bill does not answer any of these questions. But the penalty for making a mistake is high, since the law allows parents to sue for injunctions and attorney fees.
There is a similar confusion in the language of forced exit:
A school district may not adopt procedures or student support forms that require school district personnel to withhold information from a parent about the mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being of their student, or about a change in related services or supervision, or which would encourage or have the effect of encouraging a student not to disclose such information to a parent unless a reasonably prudent person believes that such disclosure would result in abuse, abandonment or negligence, as these terms are defined in art. 39.01. School district personnel may not discourage or prohibit parental notification and involvement in critical decisions affecting a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being.
Who is this mythical “reasonably prudent person?” What is a “critical decision affecting a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being?” Section 39.01 defines abuse, abandonment, and neglect, but provides no rubric for a school counselor to determine when and what to disclose. And if she is wrong, the parents can file a complaint.
DeSantis, a Harvard Law graduate, seems to have slept all day as they explained “blank for vagueness.” (Also the First Amendment.) But State Senator Dennis Baxley bravely drives a mack truck through the fog. Here’s a recap of yesterday’s Education Committee hearing on Equality Florida’s bill, which opposes the measure.
“Am I right to read that this bill would allow a parent to sue a school if their child requests a vegetarian meal for lunch and they are not consulted? asked Delray Beach Democrat Lori Berman?
Apparently so, agreed Baxley. The perfect place to discuss alternative plant-based lifestyles is at home. If little Johnny comes to his teacher and says he thinks he might be a vegetarian, parents have a right to know! One day your kid asks about soy pepperoni, and the next day he’s putting tempeh behind the gym. Obviously, the only solution to this problem is to allow the parents to sue the lunch lady for handing out Boca burgers to their impressionable offspring.
Do it for the kids!
Florida’s ‘don’t say gay’ bills, explained [Tampa Bay Times]
Dye Liz lives in Baltimore where she writes on law and politics.