How new ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bills are more restrictive than the original

A proposal in Indiana would banish instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity from all classrooms, from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Lawmakers in several states are focusing on education with anti-LGBTQ legislation that would be even stricter than the “Don’t Say Gay” law now facing a legal battle in Florida. Across the country, the restrictive proposals have already gotten endorsements and approvals at various levels of multiple state legislatures.

A proposal in Indiana would go several grades beyond Florida to stifle any and all K-12 discussions of LGBTQ issues and experiences. Whereas Florida’s original “Don’t Say Gay” law bars these topics in kindergarten through third grade, two Indiana state senators—Gary Byrne and Blake Doriot—aim to banish instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity from all classrooms, kindergarten through 12th grade.

“The Indiana General Assembly has put forward a slate of hate—an onslaught of bills targeting LGBTQ Hoosiers and singling out trans kids,” Katie Blair, the ACLU of Indiana’s advocacy and public policy director, said. “This is a well-orchestrated, hate-driven campaign to push trans kids out of public life.”

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Another of the most restrictive ‘Don’t Say Gay’ spin-offs has emerged in Missouri, where state Sen. Mike Moon has introduced the “Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act.” It would prohibit educators from “encouraging a student under the age of 18 years old to adopt a gender identity or sexual orientation.” Schools would also have just 24 hours to notify parents if their child expresses confusion about their gender identity at school or asks to use personal pronouns that differ from the sex listed on their enrollment form.

Moon was quoted by NBC News as saying the goal is to bar educators from forcing students to have gender and sexuality conversations that should take place at home. “A teacher who violates these provisions shall face charges of incompetence, immorality, and neglect of duty,” the bill concludes.

“The bill follows the lead of Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill but does so with broader impact and implications than any bill being considered in the nation,” Katy Erker-Lynch, executive director of the LGBTQ state advocacy group Promo, told NBC News.

Crackdown on nicknames and pronouns

Students in Iowa would not learn about gender identity or sexual orientation in school until ninth grade under a bill now making its way through the state’s legislature. The bill, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Sandy Salmon, covers its bases, barring “any program, curriculum, material, test, survey, questionnaire, activity, announcement, promotion, or instruction of any kind relating to” LGBTQ issues in kindergarten through eighth grade.

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That same senator has introduced another bill that would prohibit Iowa educators from teaching the widely-used CASEL framework for social-emotional learning, which the state’s department of education adopted in 2019. In a newsletter, Salmon describes the CASEL framework as “transformative” SEL that covers LGBTQ ideology and concepts of critical race theory, such as “the USA or Iowa are fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist.”

Meanwhile, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has her own ideas for education, particularly by setting some boundaries around the use of nicknames and pronouns. She has sent a bill to the legislature that, among new rules, would require school districts to get written consent from parents before any teacher or staff member can “address the minor child using a nickname or a pronoun that does not correspond to the biological sex that is listed on the minor child’s official birth.” Ironically, the governor goes by “Kim,” which in her case is short for Kimberly but could be considered a gender-neutral or even male nickname, such as in the classic eponymous novel by Rudyard Kipling.

States with narrower anti-LGBTQ legislation include North Carolina, which would bar gender identity or sexual orientation through fourth grade, and Wyoming, which would mimic Florida’s K-3 restrictions.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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