Parental Rights in Education Bill sparks nationwide debate.

Recent legislation in Florida has sparked nationwide conversations surrounding what is appropriate conversation surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.

by Lauren Brackney, Design Editor

Florida has a population of over 21.5 million residents who call the state home. According to the William’s Institute, in 2020, nearly 886,000 individuals aged 13 and older identified as part of the LGBTQ community in Florida. In March, a bill was passed there that has threatened LGBTQ discussions in schools and has led to the increased polarization of a parent’s right in a school’s curriculum.

The Florida House of Representative held the first reading of House Bill 1557, or the Parental Rights in Education Act, January 11 of this year. The house eventually passed the bill 69-47 Feb. 24. The Senate followed suit soon after, passing the bill 22-17 on March 8. Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill on March 28, and it may go into effect as early as this upcoming July.

The law has been given the moniker “Don’t Say Gay” bill as it specifically bans conversations about gender identity and sexuality from being discussed in grades kindergarten through third grade.

“My initial thought was curiosity,” social studies teacher Kathleen Daily said. “As a teacher, especially teaching AP government, I try to make it a priority to do research on both sides of the argument and actually read the piece of legislation before making any assumptions.”

The bill gained nationwide attention, as many believe that it violates the First Amendment right of free speech. Junior Marin Smith recalls that this is not the first time the LGBTQ community has been targeted in legislation. 

“When I first heard of the bill, I didn’t really think much of it because over the past seven years or so there’s been a lot of bills put up for debate exactly like this that didn’t pass, so I didn’t really think much of it until it started gaining traction,” Smith said.

To better understand the contents of the bill for her capstone research project, senior Sofia Salinardi has found that reading the actual legislation and impartial news sources is the best way to avoid biased information.

“I think the most important thing, especially with any legislation like this, is that you have to read what the bill is actually about from multiple news sources that are not just super biased ones,” Salinardi said. “Or you can go find literally any legislation online for free and they will all have an abstract, like you can just go on the Florida State Government and it’ll be there so you can figure out what was actually being passed, not just what people are talking about.”

Daily agrees that reading the actual bill has helped her form her own opinions on the issue at hand while also raising questions for discussion in the future once the bill is in effect.

“The bill states that you can’t discuss sexual orientation or gender identity in grades [kindergarten] through third grade and it also states that any discussions on gender identity and sexual orientation beyond third grade must be age appropriate,” Daily said. “This language is particularly vague. Who gets to decide what is age appropriate? Should it be parents, school board members, elected officials?” 

Salinardi agrees that this vague language may result in more damage to other controversial topics beyond sexual orientation and gender identity.

“It’s also going to be very uncomfortable for teachers, regardless of how they identify because it’s going to really heavily limit what can be talked about in classrooms,” Salinardi said. “It’s not just about gender and sexuality with the limit of anything considered non-developmentally appropriate that can get into anything, like race, which we saw a lot with critical race theory in Florida, religion, regular sex education; all of that can start to be shut down and phased out with the idea that it’s not developmentally appropriate for kids in fifth grade, which is when Florida starts allowing sex education to be taught.”

Daily points out that Saint Teresa’s Academy’s school motto encourages loving thy neighbor without distinction, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. 

“As an educator, I’m interested in ensuring all voices are heard and empowered and that may even mean voices we disagree with,” Daily said. “We have a responsibility as educators to help facilitate respectful conversations for growth and learning and not pushing a particular agenda.”

Daily believes that the law will have a great possibility of causing harm to LGBTQ youth.

“We also have to consider beyond third grade, what damage or potential damage this may do to students who have parents in the LGBTQ+ community,” Daily said. “[And] for those students who identify with the community, we have to consider what message this legislation sends to LGBTQIA youth. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth, and in the US, youth who identify as LGBTQ+ are four times more likely to commit, attempt or consider suicide than their peers.”

GSA, the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, is just one of STA’s many affinity groups designed to foster community. According to, “GSA’s mission is to decrease discrimination against people due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, socioeconomic status, or religious beliefs; the GSA promotes an accepting atmosphere throughout the school by welcoming any and all individuals to participate in the organization.”

The club holds several meetings where students have the opportunity to show their pride or ally ship while educating themselves on issues related to the LGBTQ community. Smith believes that the success of GSA is reliant upon the support system created between students of various backgrounds and identities. 

“A small factor that has had a big impact on GSA is that there’s a lot of students who are part of GSA that are allies,” Smith said. “I think it’s so important that we have allies along with our queer students because it really shows the support from STA as a community and not just the LGBTQ students.”