‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill gives parents power

“Protesters opposing the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in hopes of LGBTQ students having a voice.” Photo courtesy: Newsnationnow

Florida lawmakers have advanced the bill that would ban teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom. The parental rights in the education bill, labeled “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics, also prevents teachers and school counselors from giving support to LGBTQ+ students, without first getting permission from their parents.

The amendment to Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” bill, also dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, requiring student support services, including counseling, to give parents all information related to a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being, unless it’s believed that such disclosure would result to abuse, or neglect.

LGBTQ+ advocates argue outing students to their parents without the student’s knowledge or consent could be harmful to the adolescents. Advocates also fear the bill would restrict students’ ability to speak confidentially with school counselors, some of whom are a student’s sole resource for mental health services.

“Students should have an environment where they feel safe to talk to about any and everything,” high school counselor Robin Dawkins from Nova High School said. “Yes, we all could agree parents should have a say in their child’s life but outing them to their parents is a bit much.”

“Schools creating a safe space for LGBTQ students.” Photo courtesy: K12insight

School counselors not only help students with their behavior, but they serve with the purpose of helping students with their mental health, and sexual orientation. In addition, they provide students with a safe environment and assure students they are protected in their care.

Elementary school counselor, Heidi Bailey, agrees all students will now fear speaking to any counselor.

“This bill is very dangerous to LGBTQ students,” Bailey said. “Parents in most cases surrounding this topic are not the nicest when they hear the news, and you never know how a parent will retaliate once they are aware. It’s sad to say but this bill will cause many problems within homes, and my students will no longer feel comfortable talking to me which is very disheartening because I’m here to help and now I feel like the bad guy.”

“Leaving students out of the loop is what this bill is suggesting teachers and our school counselors to do,” third grade teacher Gwen Newton said. “This is disrespectful to the students and the counselors because it’s hindering counselors from doing their job and leaving students to talk to no one.”

LGBTQ+ advocates, notify the measure would lead to further stigmatization of gay, lesbian, and transgender children, causing more bullying and suicides within an already marginalized community.