‘Don’t Say Gay’ is inspiring even stricter limits on LGBTQ topics in schools

Alabama bans schools from teaching about LGBTQ in kindergarten through fifth grade.

A batch of new bills modeled on Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law has hit state legislatures in the growing movement to dictate how LGBTQ topics are taught—or not taught—in red-state schools. One even more restrictive measure has already become law in a neighboring state as lawmakers elsewhere rush forward with anti-LGBTQ measures under “emergency” status.

Parental Rights in Education,” signed by Flordia Gov. Ron DeSantis last month, prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. In all higher grades, teaching about LGBTQ topics must be “age-appropriate,” a standard the law does not define clearly. Parents must also be notified when there is a change in services schools are providing children with regard to their mental, emotional or physical health or well-being.

Last week, Alabama schools were banned from teaching about LGBTQ topics in kindergarten through fifth grade under a new law signed by Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday. That K-5 provision, which raises Florida’s law by two grades, was tacked onto a bill that requires individuals to use schools bathrooms “based on their biological sex.”

Not long after Florida’s law went into effect, two Ohio lawmakers proposed a carbon copy of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The measure, introduced on April 4, would bar discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Also like in Florida, the bill requires, just as vaguely, that LGBTQ content be “developmentally appropriate” in fourth through 12th grade.

Even stricter measures have surfaced recently in several other states. A bill introduced in Louisiana in mid-March would prevent educators from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten through eighth grade. And no Lousiana educators would be allowed to discuss their own sexual orientation or gender identity with students. South Carolina educators would not be allowed to teach anyone under 18 about “sexual lifestyles, acts, or practices” or “gender identity or lifestyles” if a bill proposed in late February becomes law.

A new Oklahoma bill would prohibit schools from using or even stocking books that focus on LGBTQ topics or “non-procreative sex.” Teachers would also be barred from surveying students about gender or sexuality. And Tennessee schools would be barred from using instructional materials “that promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender issues or lifestyles,” under a bill proposed in February. “The promotion of LGBT issues and lifestyles in public schools offends a significant portion of students, parents, and Tennessee residents with Christian values,” says the measure, sponsored by State Rep. Bruce Griffey. “The promotion of LGBT issues and lifestyles should be subject to the same restrictions and limitations placed on the teaching of religion in public schools.”

Here are some other recently proposed bills targetting LGBTQ topics:

  • Schools in Iowa would not be allowed to cover gender identity in kindergarten through sixth grade without parental consent, under a bill introduced in January.
  • An Arizona bill would force students to get their parents’ permission to participate in any group or club that involves sexuality, gender or gender identity. Parents would also be allowed to review the “formational documents” these groups have filed with school administrations. The bill would further require schools to get consent from parents before a student can participate in sex education and allows parents to opt-out of instruction covering the AIDS virus.
  • Indiana would prohibit schools from subjecting students to “obscene” learning materials or performances under a bill introduced in December. It also requires schools to teach in sixth through 12th grade that “socialism, Marxism, communism, totalitarianism, or similar political systems are incompatible with and in conflict with the principles of freedom upon which the United States was founded.”
  • Schools in Missouri would be barred from requiring students “to engage in any form of mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling” under HB 1669.

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Responding to the new Florida law, the advocacy organization GLSEN accused DeSantis and other elected officials of erasing LGTBQ+ communities from the K-12 curriculum and silencing teachers. LGBTQ+ youth get higher grades, feel a greater sense of belonging, and are more likely to go to college when their schools provide an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, the organization said.

“This latest attack has already had a chilling effect on LGBTQ+ youth, who already experience victimization such as bullying, harassment, and discrimination,” GLSEN’s leaders said. “The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill is an exclusionary curriculum ban that deprives LGBTQ+ youth of the opportunity to see themselves reflected in the classroom and their non-LGBTQ+ peers from learning about LGBTQ+ communities.

Though not directly covering LGBTQ topics, a law passed in Virginia last week requires school districts to notify parents of “any instructional material that includes sexually explicit content” and provide alternative material to any students or families who object. The law, which goes into effect next year, says its provisions should not be used to censor books in public elementary and secondary schools. Still, Democratic lawmakers in Virginia opposed the bill, saying educators should make decisions about whether learning materials are appropriate, KATV.com reported.

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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