House parental rights bill advances prohibiting some schoolhouse discussions of LGBTQ issues

LGBTQ youth
The bill is widely regarded as one of several measures advancing 'culture wars' this Session.

A bill giving parents more information about their children’s school experience and installing more strict regulation of LGBTQ instruction for younger students received its first committee nod Thursday. The meeting featured strenuous objections from those who worry it will make teachers fearful of some topics and chill schoolhouse conversations, especially those regarding LGBTQ issues.

The House Education and Employment Committee approved Republican Rep. Joe Harding’s Parental Rights in Education bill (HB 1557) largely along party lines, with Democrats opposed. It is legislation some see as part of the culture wars shaping this Session’s priorities.

“This bill is about defending the most awesome responsibility a person can have: being a parent,” Harding said. “That job can only be given to you by above.”

The bill is akin to the Parents’ Bill of Rights measure passed last year that also drew objections from the LBGTQ community. The law later provided a legal avenue to stop schools from requiring students to wear face masks over their parents’ objections.

As the bill sponsor, Harding confirmed the bill allows parents the right to sue if they believe a school’s procedures are infringing on their “fundamental right to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children.”

“What this bill allows for is the parents to be able to pursue the school to, No. 1, get information from the school of what is being talked to and told to the child and also damages relating to how that has affected that child,” he said.

The bill prohibits schools from encouraging classroom discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate. That clause drew particular concern Thursday.

Critics noted some students may have parents who are hostile to the news their child is a member of the LBGTQ community and might want to confide in a teacher. Children from LBGTQ families might also innocently discuss their families in a way other parents would find objectionable, critics of the bill said. Harding said he understood conversations would happen, but he wanted to make sure there was no policy encouraging it.

Todd Delmay, who is running for a House seat, said the way the bill is written could prevent his 11-year-old son from discussing his family at school. Delmay and his husband, Jeff, were the first gay men ever married in Florida.

“This would have erased his opportunity to talk about his family as it would have erased every other child’s opportunity,” he said. “Help all children to be able to talk about their families.”

Even those supporting the bill urged Harding to define “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” when it comes to those sensitive topics, so that it doesn’t prevent teachers from answering questions that might come from inquisitive students.

“Those words might not encourage discussions,” said Republican Rep. Amber Mariano, citing the bill’s lines on gender identity and sexual orientation. “I did hear your intent is to allow for questions from students and this is supposed to be about procedures.”

Advocates, particularly from Equality Florida and other LGBTQ advocacy groups, referenced the high level of suicide among LGBTQ children.

“Every single one of you have a sexual orientation. Every single one of you have a gender identity,” said Lakey Love of the Florida Coalition for Transgender Liberation. “To prohibit discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity is to exclude what it is to be human.”

But another speaker supporting the bill recounted how her 13-year-old daughter signed a “gender-nonconforming support plan” with school personnel.

“When parents are excluded from decisions affecting their child’s health and well-being it sends a message to children that their parents’ input and authority is no longer important,” said January Littlejohn, who has been on Fox News discussing her experience in Leon County Schools.

Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani objected to opening up another cause of legal action against schools and also the way the bill included sexual orientation and gender identity.

“We cannot legislate with language that specifically calls (that) out and not think that gives an impression that we don’t value folks who have a different gender identity or sexual orientation compared to you,” she said.

Sen. Dennis Baxley introduced an identical bill (SB 1834) on Tuesday.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected]


14 comments

  • Don’t Look Up

    January 20, 2022 at 4:07 pm

    Tallahassee can try to regulate discussions of behavior but the courts will be the final arbitrator.

  • Daniel

    January 20, 2022 at 11:02 pm

    I don’t understand what is happening in this state. I’ve lived here for 30 years and I’ve never seen such insanity iike I have in the last 10 or so. Florida has one of the largest LGBTQ communities in the country. How on earth can you just try and erase them from our schools? Florida has never been like this, its always been a laid back, quirky state friendly to everyone. What has turned so many of us into these hateful, bigotted people?

    • Charles Jones

      January 21, 2022 at 12:33 pm

      Yes – it is absolutely getting very scary. More reasonable, thoughtful and compassionate people like you who are not caught up in the sensational wave of identity politics need to speak up.

  • wow

    January 21, 2022 at 2:21 pm

    You learn the history of gay from ancient times on your own you learn the very dangers of risk of certain sex practices. you learn the transition of disease it is more than identity crisis.you learn sometimes you discourage your own choice that may not really be your own. you learn you have more not get along then get along. you learn bi is a lot more dangerous if you do not pick partners right.you also learn bacteria host and cancers. sex is not cleanly and you learn you could loose your rectal mussels.who wants to teach all this….this is raw material.

  • Antonio

    January 22, 2022 at 11:57 am

    Did any commenters actually read the bill? It’s basically strengthening parents rights when it comes to their own children. This the only provision that mentions sexual orientation:

    “3. A school district 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.”

    Seems reasonable to me….

  • Ron Ogden

    January 22, 2022 at 2:02 pm

    Culture wars? ” The meeting featured strenuous objections from those who worry it will make teachers fearful of some topics and chill schoolhouse conversations, especially those regarding LGBTQ issues.

    Who wants to make war on the right of parents to have their children educated the way they wish in schools they pay for? Left wing extremists, such as those mentioned above, are the only ones I can think of.

    • PeterH

      January 22, 2022 at 4:03 pm

      Yeah sure …. Let’s start allowing Ron DeSantis’s “brown shirts” to start policing teachers ….. and allowing students to rat about teachers they don’t like.

      Ron Ogden calls it FREEDUMB!

      • Ron Ogden

        January 23, 2022 at 9:46 am

        Don’t care what color shirts they wear, but those who manage our schools must accept that they are responsible to parents first, taxpayers second, and elitist social engineers cum educators dead last when it comes to setting goals and determining methods in the public classroom. That’s all this is about.

        • PeterH

          January 23, 2022 at 12:58 pm

          The proof of my statement will be in the thousands of educators who will leave the profession. FREEDUMB has its implications.

          “Let’s keep Florida’s Children Really Dumb Again”

          • ScienceBLVR

            January 24, 2022 at 6:43 am

            Whoa is me.. as an educator in the public school system for 29 years a few observations- if any of the posters here have similarly been employed- Ok, I’ll listen. Otherwise, you have NO clue what goes on in a classroom. Ask any teacher how many parents even respond when contacted about their child’s behavior or progress. Parental rights? Yeah, we teachers have rights, too, not to be cursed at, spit on, or coerced into spreading the disinformation and outright prejudice some of these parents want us to impart to back up their own crazy talk. Worried about what is being taught to your child? Want to dictate the curriculum? Sure, get your degrees, your expertise, go to Tally and sit on the standards and curriculum committee as I did. Make sure what you select will not put your child at a disadvantage in college and the work world when they don’t know how to interact with others or understand basic laws of science, math, literature. All parents are not as described above, but most would be amazed at what educators must endure just to do their jobs. Allowing children to develop empathy and understanding of different personalities, races, gender orientation is the right thing and reality. Age appropriate, of course, but again, the GOP in this state is wasting time, money, energy creating laws against problems that don’t exist just to feed the ignorance in some of their base. Let teacher teach again!

    • Brian

      January 24, 2022 at 11:40 am

      Well, you better take those smartphones out of your kids hands, which parents use to keep their kids occupied 24/7. Your arguments are so dis-genuine. The stuff kids get exposed to online is way more broad in scope than what you’re trying to limit teachers from discussing in the classroom, with their peers. You don’t want the social experience in the classroom, but you’ll let them be on social media. Okay, then! If you want your kids to be in the dark, then just remember you asked for it. You want them being exposed to different walks of life online but not be able to discuss those things in school, then you reap what you sow. If you want your kids to know how bigoted you are, then I guess that’s your prerogative too.

  • Ron Ogden

    January 24, 2022 at 10:10 am

    “Want to dictate the curriculum? Sure, get your degrees, your expertise, go to Tally and sit on the standards and curriculum committee as I did.”

    Want to draw a public pay check? Teach the way the people who are paying you want you to teach.
    Want to teach the latest mendacity erupting from the social science flakes who stew in every dingy little EdAd shop in America? Go to work for them.

    • Antonio

      January 24, 2022 at 11:00 am

      ScienceBLVR: “Allowing children to develop empathy and understanding of different personalities, races, gender orientation is the right thing and reality.“

      The problem is that there are teachers that do not care about wether such discussions are age appropriate or not and will discuss such topics with young children in their ideological pursuits. If you are upset such a bill exists, perhaps the blame should be laid on the teachers who strayed off their curricular path in the first place.

  • ConservingOutLoud

    January 27, 2022 at 4:43 pm

    The bill really puts the responsibility to the parents. Its their job to discuss cultural matters to THEIR CHILDREN. Topics like sex, sexual identity, etc. should be left to the parents, not the government. Support the bill 100%!

Comments are closed.


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