By Larena Tannert
On July 1st Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, will take effect despite the fierce opposition it has been facing. The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill bans discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom for children in kindergarten through third grade. When this bill was passed in early March by the Florida Senate it sparked protests and backlash from parents and students alike. Hundreds of students all across Florida staged a walkout in protest of the bill on March 7, almost immediately after the bill was passed in the Senate. Supporters of the bill argue that it increases parental rights by preventing teachers and school staffers from withholding information about gender issues from parents. Opponents of the bill, largely including Democrats and LGBTQ+ supporters and members, argue that the bill would stigmatize marginalized students and lead to harsh bullying. Despite the backlash the Florida bill has faced, it appears that at least nine other states are considering taking similar measures surrounding sexual orientation and homosexuality. The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill poses a threat to students mental health, specifically the LGBTQ+ youth, who are already more likely to face bullying and attempt suicide without the law in place. The law can make school unsafe for children, in particular children with LGBTQ+ parents, friends or family, and it can make them feel threatened or like they do not belong in the school system. Natasha Poulopoulos, a pediatric psychologist in Miami argued, “We have governors – that have no education or basis or expertise in child mental health – that impose such laws that are going to have horrendous impacts on kids.” The HB 1557 officially passed in the House on March 8th and 20 days later on March 28th the bill was signed into law. Since the bill passed there has been constant pushback and protests from students and parents alike, who are worried about how the bill will affect young children and their mental health.