Suppose you are a teacher. Suppose you are a teacher in Florida. Suppose you are teaching fifth grade. Suppose you are teacher beginning the new school year after summer vacation. Suppose you are a teacher and you want to ask your students how was their summer vacation but are afraid to ask. You are afraid to ask because you fear that one of the students has two moms. You are afraid to ask because the child might say “my moms…” and you will get sued by another mom of a child in the class because of the “Don’t Say Gay” law. So you “zip it up” and don’t ask the question that has been asked for a millennium but now you are worried about asking it.
One Year After “Don’t Say Gay,” Florida Parents Say They’re Enraged and Afraid
Gov. DeSantis’ anti-LGBTQ+ crusade has left parents of queer and trans kids devastated. Many say they’re ready to move, yet many more say they’ll stay and fight back.
By Colleen Hamilton
March 27, 2023[…]
In the year since DeSantis passed the Parental Rights in Education Act, or “Don’t Say Gay,” as it has become known, he has used the idea of “parental rights” to reshape Florida in his political image. Since at least the 1960s, conservative Christian activists have used parental rights as a call to arms to assert their beliefs in schools, which activists on the right believe have been eroded by a progressive embrace of LGBTQ+ children and classroom lessons about systemic racism.
The seeds of Don’t Say Gay were planted at the height of the pandemic, when conversations about mask mandates, vaccines, and in-person schooling quickly transformed into culture war talking points. Two days after “Don’t Say Gay,” DeSantis passed the “Stop WOKE Act,” which “prohibits instruction on race relations or diversity that imply a person’s status as either privileged or oppressed.” Over the past year, these bills have had what activists, LGBTQ+ children, and parents describe as a “chilling effect,” creating an atmosphere of self-censorship and fear.
“Everything is a target now,” said Todd Delmay, an LGBTQ+ parent who has a child in public school and recently ran for state senate. That’s not due to what legislators explicitly wrote into the bill, he said; rather, “it’s what they haven’t.”
Indeed, “Don’t Say Gay” is only six short paragraphs. However, those paragraphs were seemingly crafted to create an environment of paranoia and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, primarily through a clause that empowers parents to sue school districts over any material, at any age, that they deem “inappropriate.”
Over the past year, parents say this has created an environment in which teachers are afraid to mention anything about gender or sexuality, even in casual conversations. “I served in the military, and they’ve essentially created a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell environment for kids,” said Michael Rothgeb, an LGBTQ+ parent in the state.
Are you now or have you ever been a “Groomer?”
I’m a gay kindergarten teacher in Florida. These are the questions I’m asking myself.
How can I have frank, open conversations with my students about the world around them without being in danger of losing my job?
By Cory Bernaert
April 22, 2022Teaching has been my passion for the past 12 years. I am proud to call myself an educator. For the first two years, I taught first grade. It prepared me to effectively teach kindergarten while also focusing on kids’ social and emotional development. I have enjoyed working in Florida schools over the past six years, as has my partner, Jeramiah, who is also an educator. However, recently there has been a major cause for concern.
I have been stricken with fear over how Florida’s new law limiting discussions of LGBTQ+ discussions in school will affect me as a person and a professional. As a kindergarten teacher who is gay and has pictures of himself and his partner in his classroom, I regularly answer questions from my students like: “Mr. Bernaert, who is that in those pictures?” “Is that your brother?” “What did you do over the weekend?” As contributing members of society, teachers shouldn’t have to feel like they need to go back into the closet or hide who they are as people.
Straight teachers can have a photo of their spouse on their desk but LGBTQ+ teachers cannot! That violates the Constitution!
The state has introduced new laws that affect nearly every stage of parenting. Some families are choosing between fight and flight.The Washington PostBy Caitlin GibsonMarch 8, 2023One afternoon a few weeks ago, Alicea Hotchkiss’s 14-year-old son, Eli, came home from his high school in Tampa with a question about something a classmate had said to him. He’d heard the student use the word “gay” as an insult, so Eli responded the way he always does when this happens. “Hey,” Eli said, “my dad’s gay.” But this time, Eli told his mom, the other kid offered a startling rebuke: You’re not allowed to say that at school.
In a nearby community in central Florida, Barbara Mellen attended a recent open house at her son’s elementary school and asked her child’s teacher to suggest a few titles or authors that might help her second-grader develop more interest in reading. The teacher looked anxious, she says, and told her he couldn’t recommend any books.
The scary part…
Adding to the members’ sense of distress and disorientation, Minor says, is the knowledge that so many of their neighbors supported the state’s pivot from purple to solid red. Under Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who won reelection in a 20-point landslide in November and is poised for a potential presidential run, Florida has become the “center of gravity” for conservative policymaking, as James Nash, of the bipartisan ROKK Solutions public affairs strategy firm, has previously told The Washington Post. Florida families are now facing a slew of new laws and policy proposals that touch nearly every stage of parenting — from the reproductive health care a pregnant mother can receive, to the books available for an elementary school student to read, to the diversity and social culture awaiting students on college campuses.
At the center of all of this are families trying to navigate the transforming legal landscape of their home state. Parents who do not support these measures describe feeling both fearful and furious. Some have embraced activism for the first time, while longtime advocates have grown more outspoken. Others are just trying to manage what this new reality means for their families and futures.
That is exactly what the Republicans want… to shut up opposition to them.
“It feels like there are certain elements that are trying to turn the clock back on America, and turn the clock back on our state. The banning of books is a big concern for us,” Stottlemyer says, as is the “whitewashing of American history.” He is also distressed by the targeting of LGBTQ children: “As a parent, and especially with a 5-year-old, I just don’t know what path my daughter’s life is going to take, and it’s scary to think that there are people who are wanting to try to marginalize her.”
Sen. Joe McCarthy once joked, “If you want to be against me, you have to be either a communist or a c**ksucker.”
Fear is running rampant through the school systems in Florida. Creating fear for the teachers, creating fear in the parents, and creating fear in the students.
What is going to happen when all the best and brightest teachers leave the state?
What is going to happen to the LGBTQ+ students when they are forced back in the closet?
What is going to happen to the colleges when liberal prospective college students don’t come to the Florida colleges and universities?
What will happen when the University of Florida, the University of South Florida, and Florida State University only get conservative students and conservative professors? Will the schools stay accredited?
They are creating a “Brave New World” of little conservatives racists, homophobes, transphobes, xenophobes, and islamophobes.