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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

HB1557 attacks LGBTQIA+ youth

HB1557+attacks+LGBTQIA%2B+youth
How the “Don’t Say Gay” bill is harmful


Florida Bill HB1557, “Parental Rights to Education,” dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill,  was signed into law on March 28 by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Republican lawmakers are framing the bill as parents regaining the right to determine their children’s upbringing. However, this most recent law is actually a front for homophobia and is an outward attack on LGBTQIA+ youth. 

The bill affects classroom instruction as well as mental health services relating to LGBT topics. More specifically, the bill specifies that classroom instruction or discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity cannot occur in kindergarten through third grade. Classroom instruction will also be further restrained if it is considered not “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” 

The vagueness and subjectivity of the bill leaves potential for any discussion relating to sexual orientation and gender identity to be constrained at any grade level. 

With this bill, school support services, like counselors, would not be allowed to withhold information about students from parents. If a student identifies as gay and/or transgender, they would have to inform the parents, despite any negative repercussions that could occur. This takes away the safety and help that many LGBT youths should have access to. 

While the bill is incredibly dangerous for students in Florida, the impact of it goes beyond one state. Many other states, like Arizona and Texas, have adopted similar legislation. And, the pressure members of the LGBT community face to hide their identity is vast. From criminalizing homosexuality, to the ostracization LGBT people faced during the HIV/AIDS epidemic, to obscuring LGBT people and their sexualities, LGBT people have been erased throughout history. 

None of these acts of discrimination or violence have ever and will never stop LGBT people from existing. But, that does not erase the harm to LGBT communities. 

According to the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBT youth, “LGBT youth are four times as likely to attempt suicide.” Even within the community, there are disparities relating to race, with LGBT youth of color having even higher rates of suicide attempts. 

Key risk factors for LGBT youth include rejection and a lack of support as well as safe spaces. Social support, acceptance and affirming spaces and activities, especially in school, drastically reduce suicide rates. Having at least one accepting adult and one LGBT affirming space lowers the risk of suicide attempts by 40% and 35%, respectively. 

The “Don’t Say Gay” bill takes these spaces and forms of acceptance away. This is why open conversations and safe spaces are so important for the LGBT community. We need to ensure that we do everything we can to end the stigma and discrimination that plagues the LGBT community.  

The best place to start is right here on our campus. While HB1557 is specific to Florida, that does not mean our community cannot and does not harbor homophobia or discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. We all have a responsibility to practice allyship and ensure that all members of the LGBT community feel safe and respected in our communities. 

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