TALLAHASSEE -- The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization — has condemned Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal to expand the “Don’t Say LGBTQ+” bill to all grades.
HRC maintains the proposal will block teachers from providing safe, inclusive classrooms, further stigmatizing LGBTQ+ people and isolating LGBTQ+ kids.
The proposal, which would not require legislative approval, is scheduled for a vote next month before the Florida Board of Education and has been put forth by the state Education Department, both of which are led by appointees of the governor. The rule change would ban lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity from fourth to 12th grade unless required by state standards or as part of a reproductive health course that parents can opt students out of. The initial law, passed last year, bans those lessons in kindergarten through third grade.
In response, Human Rights Campaign State Legislative Director Cathryn Oakley released the following statement:
“Governor DeSantis’ ‘Don’t Say LGBTQ+’ law is a shameful attack on students already struggling with the weight of discrimination. It is a slapdash, mean-spirited, impossible-to-comply-with law designed to make LGBTQ+ students feel shame and isolation at school, a place where every child deserves a chance to learn and succeed. There’s nothing inappropriate about being LGBTQ+ and there are plenty of age-appropriate ways to acknowledge and discuss LGBTQ+ kids, staff, and family members. Teachers are experts in providing information in an age appropriate way - DeSantis is simply reviving vintage ‘Save Our Children’ discrimination to make a political name for himself."
According to HRC, LGBTQ+ Floridians are more than twice as likely to experience depression or anxiety compared to non-LGBT Floridians. According to the Public Opinion Research Lab (PORL) at the University of North Florida, 49% of Floridians oppose the legislation while only 40% support it. Opposition for the bill is even stronger in younger populations. A majority of Floridians between the ages of 18 and 24 — recent secondary school graduates — disapprove of efforts to erase LGBTQ+ people in classrooms.
HRC maintains findings from the GLSEN 2021 National School Climate Survey demonstrate that Florida schools were already not safe for most LGBTQ+ secondary school students. Most LGBTQ+ students in Florida experienced anti-LGBTQ+ victimization at school. Only 11% of LGBTQ+ students in Florida were taught any positive representations of LGBTQ+ people, history, or events.
So far in 2023, HRC is tracking more than 420 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have been introduced in statehouses across the country. Approximately 180 of those bills would specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date.
This year, HRC is tracking: