Florida representative proposes requiring schools to out LGBTQ kids to their parents — even if it puts them in danger
Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill, which is scheduled for a floor vote in the Florida House today, would create a hostile environment for LGBTQ students. The bill prohibits any discussion of "sexual orientation or gender identity" through the third grade and any discussion "that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students" in other grades. This would prohibit younger students with same-sex parents from discussing their families in class and make it difficult for any student to learn about the Stonewall Riots or Supreme Court cases like Obergefell v. Hodges.
The bill, as it is currently drafted, also requires schools to out LGBTQ students to their parents in most cases. The bill would require schools to "adopt procedures for notifying a student's parent if there is a change in the student's services or monitoring related to the student's mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being and the school's ability to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for the student." This would include information school officials learn, through counseling or other programs, about sexual orientation or gender identity.
The original bill, however, has one nod to the well-being of LGBTQ students. It would allow schools to "withhold such information from a parent if a reasonably prudent person would believe that disclosure would result in abuse, abandonment, or neglect."
But now, the sponsor of the bill in the House, Florida Representative Joe Harding (R), has offered an amendment. The proposed amendment would require schools to out LGBTQ students, even in cases where school officials believe it would result in "abuse, abandonment, or neglect."
The school principal or his or her designee shall develop a plan, using all available governmental resources, to disclose such information within 6 weeks after the decision to withhold such information from the parent. The plan must facilitate disclosure between the student and parent through an open dialogue in a safe, supportive, and judgment-free environment that respects the parent-child relationship and protects the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of the student.
The bill envisions outing LGBTQ students to hostile parents in "a safe, supportive, and judgment-free environment." But, of course, that is not always possible and the bill does not provide any exceptions to the requirement to out students. It's unclear how any school can protect "the mental, emotional, and physical well-being" of students while outing them to parents who it believes will respond to the information with "abuse, abandonment, or neglect."
Schools that violate this requirement could be sued by parents.
Supporters of the bill like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R), characterize it as a common-sense measure to give parents a say in their child's education. "You have politicians saying parents have no role in the education of their kids. Give me a break," DeSantis said, indicating his support for the bill. But the amendment, which will also be considered by the Florida House today, reveals the extremist ideology behind the proposal even more starkly than the original bill.
Putting LGBTQ youth in danger
The amendment would put LGBTQ students, already a vulnerable and marginalized population, in even greater danger. LGBTQ youth already experience very high rates of homelessness due to "family rejection resulting from sexual orientation or gender identity," "physical, emotional, and sexual abuse," and "financial and emotional neglect." The amendment, by outing LGBTQ students to hostile families, would likely force more students into the streets.
In a statement to Popular Information, Equality Florida, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, emphasized the danger to students.
We wish every home was an accepting one and that every young person was affirmed and celebrated by their families. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case for LGBTQ youth. They already make up 40% of the homeless youth population because they face higher rates of family rejection and abuse simply for being who they are.
Equality Florida said the amendment is "cruel, dangerous, and underscores that this bill has no regard for the well-being of Florida’s youth."
Florida Represenative Carlos Smith (D) told Popular Information that the amendment "deliberately puts LGBTQ youth in harms’ way in order to pander to a small but vocal group of far-right extremists."
Bill sponsor smears Florida teachers
Harding, the author of the bill and the amendment, says that he is just trying to empower parents. But Harding recently promoted a tweet that includes a vile smear against Florida teachers. The tweet claims that Florida teachers are using classroom discussions of gender and sexual orientation to "groom" students.
The tweet promoted by Harding was published by "Moms for Liberty," the dark money group trying to prevent second-graders in Tennessee from reading about MLK Jr. It illustrates the confluence between efforts to restrict discussions of race in school with efforts to restrict discussions of gender and sexual orientation in school.
DeSantis also attacked Florida teachers when he announced his support for Harding's bill. DeSantis claimed, without providing evidence, that some Florida teachers were "hiding" lessons about these subjects from parents.
DeSantis and Harding are baselessly attacking Florida teachers at a time when the state desperately needs more educators. According to Florida Education Association, at the start of this academic year there were "4,961 teaching vacancies and 3,753 vacancies for staff" in Florida schools.
An updated list of the corporate backers of the politicians behind Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill
Last Thursday, Popular Information revealed the corporate backers of the Florida politicians behind the "Don't Say Gay" bill. Since then two things have happened: 1. The bill was approved by the Florida House Judiciary Committee, 2. Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls scheduled the bill for a full vote today.
Popular Information has updated the list of top corporate donors, adding contributions to the members of the House Judiciary Committee who voted for the bill and Sprowls since 2020.
The new list of top donors includes PepsiCo, which has donated $35,000 to Sprowls and other legislators that support the bill since 2020. PepsiCo presents itself publicly as a champion of LGBTQ rights:
Here are the updated totals of major corporate donors to the sponsors of the "Don't Say Gay" bill, the legislators who voted for the bill in committees, Sprowls, and DeSantis since 2020: Charter Communications ($229,000), United Healthcare Groups ($225,000), Publix ($202,000), AT&T ($102,500), Comcast/NBC Universal ($92,000), Anheuser-Busch ($75,000), Duke Energy ($52,000), Draft Kings ($50,000), PepsiCo ($35,000), Walgreens ($31,500), Zillow ($20,000), Amazon ($7,500).