When children go to school, their parents expect them to learn, play outside (when young), and make new friends. They do not expect the halls and classrooms of the respective public schools to be utilized as a forum for political discourse and far-left indoctrination.
Sadly, many public schools are being used for such purposes. For example, in some cases, children are forced to adopt and accept skewed versions of critical race theory. This is unacceptable, as some topics simply do not belong in the public-school classrooms.
With this in mind, the Florida House recently proposed a bill that would prohibit or limit the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the state’s primary schools (the Florida Senate proposed a similar bill).
The Bill in Question
The Florida House of Representatives’ version of the bill (HB 1557) states:
3. A school district may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.
4. A parent of a student may bring an action against a school district to obtain a declaratory judgment that a school district procedure or practice violates this paragraph and seek injunctive relief. A court may award damages and shall award reasonable attorney fees and court costs to a parent who receives declaratory or injunctive relief.
In essence, this bill prohibits, or limits, a school district from promoting or encouraging discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom. It also allows provides legal recourse, including injunctive relief, against a school district if the district violates this provision.
Assuming DeSantis signs a bill of this nature (the Florida Senate proposed a very similar bill), and if it survives any potential legal challenges, Floridians should support this bill without reservation. This bill has nothing to do with LGBTQ rights or curtailing such rights. As a matter of fact, it does not speak to that whatsoever. Rather, the bill aims to limit the types of topics that children are taught in the classroom and to ensure that the topics are relevant and appropriate.
DeSantis has apparently voiced support for such a bill. According to a report by NBC News:
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis voiced his support for a bill that would prohibit the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the state’s primary schools.
Asked by reporters at a Miami event Monday, he said it was “entirely inappropriate” for teachers to be having conversations with students about gender identity, citing instances of them telling children, “Don’t worry, don’t pick your gender yet,” and also “hiding” classroom lessons from parents.
“Schools need to be teaching kids to read, to write,” DeSantis said. “They need to teach them science, history. We need more civics and understanding of the U.S. Constitution, what makes our country unique, all those basic stuff.”
“The larger issue with all of this is parents must have a seat at the table when it comes to what’s going on in their schools,” he added.
Opponents to this bill allege that it will negatively impact LGBTQ students and teachers and will remove protections that they currently enjoy. While such concerns are important, a bill like this does no such thing. Rather, it attempts to limit or preclude schools and teachers from discussing topics that have no place in the classroom.
The Supporting Argument
As reported by Newsweek, State Rep. Joe Harding, a Republican sponsor of the bill, was quoted as saying, “Parents feel like they are losing control of their own children in the classroom.”
“There is no reason for anyone other than a parent or guardian to be discussing gender identity or any other topic of a sexual nature with a child between kindergarten and the 3rd grade,” he added. “This bill simply defines for parents and guardians a right that should be universally recognized.”
According to Harding, opponents of the bill are “making a ridiculous case that this bill is about attacking gays.” He continued, “Discussing heavy sexual topics with children before puberty and without the direct consultation and participation of a parent is usually recognized as abuse.”
“Every adult, LGBT or straight, who has a child’s best interests in mind, should support this legislation,” Harding urged.
State Senator Dennis Baxley, another Republican sponsor of the bill in the Florida Senate, further noted, “I’m particularly concerned about early intervention and shaping and social engineering their views about topics that are much more sophisticated than primary age children should be struggling with.”
He also did not feel that parents should relinquish their roles to teachers who receive students from “all over the spectrum” and are trying to do things that are “far beyond what a teacher should do.”
The Opposing Argument
The bill, however, could use some clarification, as it is not entirely clear what types of discussions are permitted and what topics are off limits or limited. Therefore, clarification and specificity on this front would be very helpful. For example, according to a recent article in CNN:
The “Don’t Say Gay” bill will do real and lasting harm. All students should learn about the LGBTQ community’s important contributions to US history and culture. Landmark events, ranging from the Stonewall Riots to Supreme Court decisions in cases such as Obergefell v. Hodges and Bostock v. Clayton County, should be included in any comprehensive lesson plan on modern history and civil rights movements.
According to the NBC News report:
State Rep. Joe Harding, the Republican who introduced the bill, said during a committee hearing last month that the measure would not prevent students from discussing their families, according to WFLA-TV, an NBC affiliate in Tampa. He added that teachers would not be prohibited from lessons on LGBTQ history, including discussing the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida.
While Harding’s comments add some clarity, the language of the bill should specifically identify, to the extent possible, the types of discussions and topics that are prohibited or limited, the ages and grades that the law applies to, and how to determine the meaning of such terms like “age appropriate” or “developmentally appropriate.” In doing so, the bill would add some much-needed specificity to terms that some could argue are vague and ambiguous.
Ironically, some who adamantly oppose this bill feverishly support Democrat-led efforts to utilize the nation’s public schools as a forum to push ideas like critical race theory. While some teachers around the country push this theory on defenseless children, many Democrats have failed to voice similar concerns about the potential negative psychological impacts that such “lessons” undoubtedly have on children.
The Bottom Line
Public schools should be a place where children go to learn about academics and develop social skills. They should not be utilized as conduits to promote a political agenda or to pressure or indoctrinate children. Teachers and staff should always remain apolitical, unbiased, and professional. While free to think and believe what they want, they should not impose their ideas and thoughts about certain topics on defenseless students, many of whom will not dare oppose them.
Opinions surrounding gender identity and sexual orientation should be off limits in schools, DeSantis correctly points out. Rather, they should be discussed between children and their parents if, and when, the time is right. Ensuring that parents are returned the autonomy to make that decision is the goal of this bill, plain and simple. However, to do so effectively, the legislation should be much more specific in nature before it reaches the governor’s desk for signature.
Mr. Hakim is an attorney and columnist. His articles have been published in The Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, American Thinker, and other online publications. He is also a regular guest on OANN’s Tipping Point.