Education Law

ABA opposes provisions in Florida's 'Don’t Say Gay' bill

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The ABA is opposing provisions in Florida legislation dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill because they would undermine the well-being of LGBTQ students and chill beneficial faculty speech.

ABA President Reginald Turner outlined the ABA opposition to the bill, which discourages some classroom discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity, in a Feb. 16 letter to Florida lawmakers.

Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill provides that school districts in the state “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,” the Washington Post has reported.

Parents could sue schools that violate the law.

Turner’s letter said the ABA adopted a resolution in 2020 urging publicly funded elementary and secondary schools to include information about the contributions of LGBTQ people in their curricula. The resolution also said the schools should “include age-appropriate LGBTQ-inclusive sexual health education … to promote public health best practices and improve youth mental health outcomes.”

Turner’s letter outlined three concerns with the Florida bill:

  1. A positive environment is crucial to the well-being of LGBTQ youths. Studies have shown that students perceive the school environment as being safer when provided with LGBTQ-inclusive information. They also report less victimization based on sexual orientation in schools with LGBTQ-inclusive curricula.

  2. A quality education includes a positive school climate and social and emotional support. Lack of such support for LGBTQ youths can affect academic motivation and lead to feelings of sadness, disconnectedness and suicidal ideation.

  3. Preventing discussion about a segment of the student population instills shame in those youths and stops educators from providing comprehensive instruction. The Florida legislation “will chill speech where faculty and staff have traditionally counseled and comforted the students in their care.”

“Laws that inhibit positive portrayals of LGBTQ individuals of all ages foster a hostile culture beset by bullying and physical violence toward LGBTQ students, leading to poor health outcomes for a population already at-risk,” Turner wrote.

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