“Don’t Say Gay” Is Pure Fearmongering
The Parental Rights in Education Act has drawn fire from homophobic hate groups on the left. But what does the bill actually say?
Florida’s proposed Parental Rights in Education Act, which many homophobic hate groups on the left have smeared as a “Don’t Say Gay” bill, will soon go to a vote in the Florida State Senate.
Despite what you may have heard, the Parental Rights in Education Act does not require schools to out gay students to abusive parents; nor does it erase gay people and gay history. Rather, the Parental Rights in Education Act would protect children – including young lesbians and gay boys – from exposure to inappropriate sexual content, and give loving and supportive parents access to the information they need to protect and guide their children.
The full text of the bill can be found here. Below, we analyze the text and fact-check the four most common myths surrounding the bill.
FALSE: The bill’s primary purpose is to erase homosexuality and shame gay students.
The bill makes exactly two references to sexual orientation:
The bill’s prohibition on teaching sexual orientation applies only to children below fourth grade. It does not prohibit age-appropriate discussion of sexual orientation in middle- or high school sex ed, and it does not prohibit the discussion of gay history in classes beyond third grade.
Importantly, the bill would prevent young children from being indoctrinated into the ideology of “gender identity” by their schools – an ideology which is, at its core, homophobic. This prohibition would give young lesbians and gay boys, who are at higher risk for experiencing confusion over their biological sex at a young age, precious time to get used to their bodies and themselves, and give them a fighting chance to escape grooming for medical abuse.
FALSE: The bill would require schools to out students to abusive parents.
One of the objections often hurled against the Parental Rights in Education Act is that the bill would force educators to out gay and mentally ill students to abusive parents. The Los Angeles Blade, for one, reported in February that the bill would “require schools to out LGBTQ [sic] students even if the school believes the disclosure will result in ‘abuse, abandonment, or neglect.’”
This statement not only misrepresents the text of the bill; it flat-out contradicts it. This is the text in question, which reporter James Finn even cites in the Blade article:
In short, the Parental Rights in Education Act would not prevent school personnel from withholding information from parents if it is reasonable to suspect that the parents would abuse, neglect, or abandon the child as a result. This is a reasonable safeguarding measure, as are other safeguarding measures laid out in the text:
Lesbians United understands that most parents have their children’s best interests at heart, and that access to information equips parents to care for their children effectively. The Parental Rights in Education Act would reinforce parents’ right to access their children’s records, and would make reasonable, loving parents the first port of call for children who are grappling with mental illness, peer conflict, or uncertainty about the future.
FALSE: The bill would encourage conservative parents to sue schools willy-nilly.
Metro Weekly, among other news outlets, is stoking fears that the bill would “enable schools to be sued by overly litigious parents or those seeking an easy ‘cash-grab.’”
In reality, the Parental Rights in Education Act lays out clear guidelines that would prevent lawsuits against Florida schools. These guidelines require parents to work directly with their school districts to resolve concerns. If the school district does not resolve the concern, parents may request that the State Board of Education step in.
The procedure laid out above is a reasonable attempt to balance parents’ rights with the school system’s authority. Under the Parental Rights in Education Act, parents would have the right to request a special magistrate at the school district’s expense (note that this has nothing to do with a lawsuit). But the Commissioner of Education would select the magistrate, and the State Board of Education would have the final say on whether to accept or decline the magistrate’s recommendations.
The Parental Rights in Education Act does have one thing to say about legal action. If a school district fails to follow the proper procedure for addressing parents’ concerns, then parents have a right to:
Note that the “paragraph” referred to here is the paragraph that lays out the procedure for resolving concerns. So the bill mentions legal action only in cases where a school has first illegally withheld information from parents, or illegally taught age-inappropriate sexual content – and then also illegally mishandled parents’ complaints.
FALSE: The bill is an extreme departure from existing laws.
Again and again, organizations from the HRC to the ACLU to Equality Florida have smeared the Parental Rights in Education Act as “extreme,” claiming that it “undermines existing protections” for LGB and mentally ill kids.
But for anyone who actually reads the bill, the truth is glaringly obvious: there’s no extreme language here, and no hint of an attempt to undermine any existing law. Rather, the bill’s primary purpose seems to be upholding and reinforcing existing laws.
Lesbians United knows homophobia when we see it – and Florida’s proposed Parental Rights in Education Act is emphatically not it. Instead, it is a collection of reasonable safeguarding measures, designed to protect kids – including young lesbians and gay boys – from exposure to inappropriate sexual content, and from dangerous overreach by schools. The Parental Rights in Education Act puts children’s care back where it belongs: in the hands of loving and supportive parents, who have their children’s best interests at heart.
Lesbians United wholeheartedly endorses the Parental Rights in Education Act.