Don’t Say Gay Extends to High School


Kiera DeCesare, Online/News Editor

     Despite promises from the Republican party that the Protect the Children Act—also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill—would not extend past the elementary school level, on Apr. 19th it was announced that the bill would extend to the high school level. 

     This bill is an outlandish, baseless attack on educators. The language of the bill is intentionally vague to allow for many interpretations. The new extension of the bill says, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual identity or gender identity in grades 4-12 is prohibited.” Nobody knows what “classroom instruction” is. Does this ban things like teaching books that have gay characters? What about having units that feature LGBTQ authors or poets?  

     One may be thinking “Well, teachers can just teach what they want to teach, and if they are reprimanded, so be it. They can just adjust their curriculum and move on.” However, under this act, parents who feel like this act has been violated can take civil action against the school or get the school investigated by the Florida Department of Education. Under this totalitarian regime, teachers would have to live in fear of being reported and would have to completely censor themselves. In fact, many of the classes I have taken would have to completely cut out certain units or lessons. Some of these lessons, like the Gay Rights Protests of the Stonewall Inn, are in curriculums outlined by College Board. This standard is not indoctrination; it is learning about how the rights of certain minority groups have expanded over time. It is no different than learning about abolitionism or women’s suffrage.  

     In addition to this, this act will have profound impacts on the English departments of Florida schools. Walt Whitman is an extremely famous poet whose works are featured in AP level English classes around the state. Not only are his works essential in helping students start to understand poetry, but many of Whitman’s poems are also featured on online blogs with titles like “20 Poems to know for AP Literature and AP Lang.” Guess what? Whitman was gay. Would any mention of Whitman’s sexuality be forbidden, even if that fact is necessary to a deeper understanding of his poems? Whitman’s poems are not an elaborate scheme to indoctrinate your kids; they are a good starting place to introduce students to poetry. 

     Not only is this an archaic attack on educators, but this is also an assault on any LGBTQ+ high school student. I asked former and current students of GBHS to tell me how their experience at GBHS would be negatively impacted under the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Junior Abby Holmes said, “People’s sexualities are personal and deserve to be respected. No school, or person for that matter, should have the ability to silence LGBTQ+ students. It’s completely unfair that any bill like that could exist and be enforced.”  

     Former Gulf Breeze High School student Cole Kariher said, “The expansion of the Don’t Say Gay bill to the 12th grade would have prohibited any teacher facilitated discussions on LGBTQ+ people. I gave a speech my freshman year of high school about how being openly gay had impacted my life, and after that speech, a teacher came up to me and offered their support specifically because of my identity. Under this expansion, that couldn’t happen now.” Kariher also discussed the potential impacts on his education saying, “My junior year, the AP Comparative Government curriculum included a section on LGBTQ+ civil rights movement. This is when I learned about Harvey Milk and so many other activists that would no longer be allowed [to be taught].” Kariher also worries about other possible ramifications, saying, “Probably the biggest impact would be on the GSA club that I started would no longer be allowed to operate. I think that having an organization where people can find community and see others that are like them provides an invaluable resource, especially in a town like Gulf Breeze. I was terrified to come out in middle school, and If I had known there was a place for people like me in a town that was conservative, it would have made things a lot easier.” *Editor’s note: At this time, there is not indication that HB1557 would end GSA clubs.

     The Don’t say Gay bill is a flagrant attack on educators and students in the state of Florida. How are teachers able to teach when there are laws telling them they can’t teach things outlined in their curriculums?