Teachers fear the cool effects of Florida’s so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

Among its controversial measures, the law prohibits guidelines on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten to third grade.

“We will ensure that parents can send their children to school for education, not instinct,” said Dissentis in a bill signed by young children at Classical Preparatory School in Spring Hill, Fla., Which, as a charter school, would not be affected by law. .

Opponents of the law, DeSantis said, “support the sexuality of children in kindergarten. They advocate injecting gender ideology into second-class classrooms.”

Teachers say students have other concerns

Paula Stephens teaches first grade at Eisenhower Elementary School in Clearwater, Fla. “I see it as a door opener to many more restrictions in the classroom,” she says, “and it’s worrying for me.” (Paula Stephens)

This is news to teachers like Paula Stephens, a first grader at Eisenhower Primary School in Flyer Clearwater.

Her first grade students do not focus on sexual orientation or gender identity. Their main concern, he said, was “is it time for breakfast?”

After all, teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity is not the first part, says StephensGrade syllabus. But talking about family Is Part of his curriculum, and some of his students may have two mothers or two fathers.

“It makes me wonder,” she says, “when I talk about family in my classroom, am I breaking this law because the kids were discussing what their family is like?”

Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. But Stephens fears that the language of the law is so vague that it will have a cooling effect, and he worries that other issues might be targeted.

“What next?” He asked. “If they’re going after this conversation now, where will it stop? … I’m really afraid this law is going to open it up for a lot more to start being discriminated against.”

Some teachers see the law as a ‘shameless attack on education’

Outside of kindergarten to third grade, Florida law further states that any instruction regarding sexual orientation or gender identity must be “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate to state standards” in any grade.

Opponents say the law would effectively mask any discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity due to fear. Under the law, parents can sue the school district if they believe the school is violating.

Jorje Botello teaches American history in 8th grade at Osceola Middle School in Okeechobee, Fla. “What’s the matter if I think I’ll always be watched by my older brother,” he says. (Jorge Botello)

“Honestly, I think it’s a shameless attack on education,” said Jorge Botello, who taught eighth-grade American history at Osiola Middle School in rural Okichobi, Fla., For 19 years. “Many of these bills did not enter the public education classroom written by people.”

Under the new law, he wonders, would Prussian General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, the hero of the Revolutionary War, widely believed to be openly gay, be told that his students would be considered age-appropriate?

“When you look back at history,” Botello said, “there are clear examples of how these different groups that attacked today actually helped shape our country. … they are part of our story.”

Botello believes such lessons can empower LGBTQ students, weaving them into American history. As a Mexican-American, he said, he knows how important such representation is; Growing up he did not see himself in the history books.

Awaiting education under the new law, Botello said he would be more cautious.

“I know I have to think a little harder when navigating [these subjects] Next year, now this bill is going to be effective, “he said.

If the climate becomes too limited, Botello says he may have to consider retiring.

“If I think I’ll always be watched by the big brother,” he said, “like, what’s the use?”

Some teachers say that their role is to help students feel right about who they are

For Clinton McCracken, who has taught art for 21 years at the Howard Middle School Academy of Arts in Orlando, the law appears to be a heinous, personal attack.

As a gay man, he said, it tells him and his LGBTQ students that there is something “inappropriate” about them: that their identities are forbidden, or somehow dirty.

Clinton McCracken taught art at the Howard Middle School Academy of the Arts in Orlando. The new law, he says, “tries to teach vulnerable young people that there is something wrong with them, that there is something wrong with being LGBTQ.” (Dr. Bob Walker)

McCracken points to a 2021 survey by the Trevor Project, a nonprofit suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth, which found that 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide attempts last year.

“I can tell you that growing up as a gay boy, how realistic those statistics are,” he said, “and how dangerous it is that these Republican lawmakers are playing with the safety of our vulnerable youth.”

McCracken is horrified when he hears Decentis claim that schools are, in the governor’s words, “sexually abusing” children and injecting “transgenderism” into the classroom.

“It’s a cultural war created by him so he can achieve his political ambitions. All of this,” McCracken said. “So yes, I’m not teaching kids in my classroom how to be gay, but I’ll tell you what I’m doing. I’m trying my best to teach kids who they are.”

McCracken said he had spoken to teachers that the new law would not silence them.

“They will teach exactly as they were taught and continue to provide a safe place in their classroom as they were,” he said.