Florida Lawmakers Foster Homophobia in Primary Level Classrooms
Yestin Arvin Gochuico – Staff Writer
There’s a trend of Republicans restricting what students can and cannot learn in Florida, dangerously threading us towards primitivism. From systemic racism to gender discussions, lawmakers are abusing their seats to frantically reject reality, alienating various communities, now the LGBTQ+ community, in the education system.
On March 28, 2022, Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the controversial Parental Rights in Education bill into law, widely known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Disguised as a “fundamental right of parents,” the bill prohibits discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. It also grants parents the right to sue school districts for violations.
With the content seemingly about “parental rights,” lawmakers deviated from the subject and inserted a section unrelated to the said Florida statute.
The contention surrounds one section: “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
Lawmakers fail to understand that learning sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE) shouldn’t be restricted to age or developmental appropriateness. In a 2017 study done by Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, kids as young as 3.5 years old already exhibit behaviors that correlate to their identity when they later grow up. A child’s age does not dictate how SOGIE should be known, as there’s no set “maturity” period.
Now that the bill is signed, schools will reject and erase LGBTQ+ topics in primary grade level. Knowing that kids can already develop non-conforming tendencies at a young age, the law will essentially teach the children that it’s not okay to feel different. There’s not much time until we see kids afraid to be themselves, denied representation and inclusion.
In a Florida Senate floor debate, Sen. Dennis Baxley, one of the bill’s sponsors, believe that children know too much about experimenting with sexuality. To quote, “there really is a dynamic of concern of how much of this are genuine type of experiences and how many of them are just kids trying on different kinds of things.”
But that’s the crucial point, not a concern. Children need safe spaces to experiment and try different things in their journey to discover their identity. American Psychological Association says school and social climates should support non-conforming youth to battle bias and discrimination. Limiting the environment supposed to teach them said topics will foster ignorance, or worse, homophobia, in schools and force students to suppress their SOGIE.
The flood of restrictive education laws is plaguing the state of our classrooms. For the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, now law, Republicans are not protecting children from mature concepts but censoring LGBTQ+ discussions to children at a young age when they need it the most. Republicans are adamant about controlling how the youth gets educated. Why? So they can foster a generation degenerated of self-identity—stripped of themselves.