During the debate over Florida’s Parental Rights legislation (HB 1557/ SB 1834), progressive politicians are ignoring issues in public schools and calling the proposal the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The bill addresses a number of concerns related to communications between school officials and students. The bill requires school officials to notify parents if issues arise related to a student’s mental, emotional, or physical well-being. In addition, the bill prohibits school officials from encouraging students to withhold information from their parents.
Issues related to these provisions are currently being litigated in two separate legal cases across Florida. For example, parents are suing the Clay County School Board for counseling their elementary school child related to gender issues without their knowledge. The parents became aware of the situation when their child tried to commit suicide. School officials allegedly defended their actions by invoking “confidentiality rules” to justify not including the parents in the counseling sessions.
Also, the Leon County School Board is being sued in federal court for allegedly engaging a middle school student in a gender transition plan without the knowledge of her parents. The child’s parent – who is a mother of three children and a licensed mental health counselor – was shocked at the fact that the meeting took place without her knowledge.
Despite these issues, Florida State Representative Anna Eskamani (D-District 47) appeared on CNN and said she opposes the bill, “wholeheartedly” and said she knows of no issues that would warrant such legislation. In addition, Eskamani claims that legislation is “another effort by Governor Ron DeSantis who is trying to fight with Trump for supremacy among the Republican Party and appeal to his base.”
The bill also prohibits school officials from encouraging discussion related to sexual orientation or gender identity for grades K-5 and restricts such discussions to age-appropriate students.
These provisions have drawn the ire of progressive legislators and LGBTQ advocacy groups.
State Representative Carlos Guillermo-Smith (D-District 49), Florida’s first openly LGBTQ Latino legislator said, “We should and we are encouraging these types of conversations in our schools.”
Equality Florida, a leading state-wide advocate for LGBTQ rights, said that the “legislation is meant to stigmatize LGBTQ people, isolate LGBTQ kids, and make teachers fearful of providing a safe, inclusive classroom. The existence of LGBTQ students and parents is not a taboo topic that has to be regulated by the Florida Legislature.”
Eskamani said, “Every time is appropriate to acknowledge that LGBTQ+ people and families exist and anyone that disagrees has a position rooted in homophobia and transphobia, and it’s patently offensive for the State of Florida to consider such legislation.”
Eskamani has not responded to a request for comment about her statements, including a question about the existence of privacy rights for students related to gender issues.
The Florida House Education & Employment Committee has moved the bill forward, handing it off to the judiciary committee.
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Steve Stewart is a senior contributor at The Florida Capital Star. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith” by Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith. Photo “Representative Anna V. Eskamani” by Representative Anna V. Eskamani.