How ‘Don’t Say Gay’ and Parental Rights Laws Can Harm Students

How ‘Don’t Say Homosexual’ and Parental Rights Legal guidelines Can Hurt College students


The brand new “Don’t Say Homosexual” invoice working its means by the Florida legislature is definitely nothing new in U.S. colleges. What’s new is the organized youth resistance to such dangerous legal guidelines and the deep data base we’ve got about how they will hurt college students and negatively impression faculty cultures. As a way to push again in opposition to such laws, we have to perceive the historical past and impacts of such legal guidelines in addition to why “mother and father’ rights” approaches must be seen with warning, as they will impression college students’ rights to study in a nondiscriminatory setting.

Historical past of ‘no promo homo’ legal guidelines and destructive youth outcomes

There are at the moment 4 states which have state legal guidelines banning the dialogue of LGBTQ individuals in colleges (TX, OK, LA, MS). These legal guidelines are typically paired with legal guidelines requiring abstinence-only intercourse training and embrace language equivalent to:

“Course supplies and instruction regarding sexual training or sexually transmitted illnesses ought to embrace: emphasis, offered in a factual method and from a public well being perspective, that homosexuality just isn’t a life-style acceptable to most of the people and that gay conduct is a prison offense below Part 21.06, Penal Code.” Tex. Well being & Security Code § 163.002.

Different states had comparable legal guidelines on the books however have repealed them in recent times: Alabama in 2021, Arizona in 2019, and Utah in 2016. South Carolina’s legislation was overturned in 2020, saying that it violated the Equal Safety Clause of the 14th Modification. Though this was solely determined with a consent decree, the South Carolina Division of Schooling agreed that the legislation was seemingly unconstitutional and didn’t attraction the choice. This is a crucial authorized basis that different states ought to study from.

What we all know from a number of a long time of analysis is that LGBTQ youth who attend colleges that don’t have an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum can expertise a bunch of harms, together with:

  • Publicity to extra frequent anti-LGBTQ remarks at college.
  • Greater ranges of victimization (bullying and harassment).
  • Extra prone to miss faculty as a result of they felt unsafe.
  • Decrease GPAs (GLSEN 2020).

We additionally know that college students within the South are likely to expertise extra destructive environments associated to gender and sexual range. That is seemingly as a result of extra conservative tradition of the South and the various anti-gay legal guidelines that now solely exist in Southern states. This new Florida legislation would prohibit instruction about gender and sexuality in Okay-third grade which implies younger kids who’re raised in households with LGBTQ mother and father, who’re transgender, or who could come to establish as LGB don’t have any alternative to see themselves, their household construction, or family members represented within the curriculum and can seemingly be subjected to highschool environments which are hostile to LGBTQ individuals. This invoice is named “an act regarding parental rights in training,” so what does that actually imply?

Parental rights in public training

What’s new about this Florida laws (HB 1557) is it’s utilizing the language of oldsters’ rights. Along with limiting the curriculum, it offers mother and father the best to sue the college district in the event that they violate this legislation. The authorized technique of leveraging parental rights has been efficient in advancing particular person rights over efforts to advertise academic alternative and fairness in public colleges (Mead & Lewis 2016) and violates the idea of parens patrae, which is defined as follows:

“precept of parens patriae offered state and district officers the authority to dictate what a toddler is required to study in a public faculty. That result’s even true within the case of controversial subjects equivalent to intercourse training (e.g., Brown v. Sizzling, Attractive, Safer Productions, Inc., 1995; Leebaert v. Harrington, 2003). Mother and father who objected to such curriculum had no alternative however to withdraw from public colleges.” (Mead & Lewis 2016)

Happily, the youth of Florida are voicing their concern with this invoice and organizing walkouts and demonstrations in opposition to it. One pupil was even suspended for his position in organizing a protest, which seemingly violates his First Modification rights—one thing I addressed in an earlier submit about free speech at colleges. However I digress.

Significance of a optimistic faculty local weather

What we all know from the analysis on efficient studying environments is that college students usually tend to thrive in settings which are secure, organized, participating, and the place they really feel that they will belong. If college students aren’t allowed to speak about their households, their identities, and their realities, they received’t really feel secure or like they belong at college. If their faculty enforces silence and concern round discussing their household background or their very own creating identification, they are often susceptible to bullying, harassment, and isolation. This may trigger college students to interact in dangerous behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse or dropping out of college. This is not even contemplating what it might do to academics who’re LGBTQ and might’t talk about their households at college. So what ought to we do?

Public colleges within the U.S. have a protracted historical past of being tasked with attempting to handle an entire host of social ills, together with segregation and racism, poor therapy of individuals with disabilities, integrating new immigrants, in addition to bettering educational achievement and financial alternatives for all. If mother and father and states are allowed to choose and select which classes they wish to study and which data they don’t like, we threat amplifying the already deep fissures in our society. To domesticate engaged residents for a functioning democracy, we want colleges that educate college students about our various society and assist them domesticate trusting relationships with academics and friends. “Don’t say homosexual” and “parental rights” legal guidelines undercut such vital targets. We have to proceed working in opposition to such laws to make sure our public training system serves all learners and places the great of the group in addition to the well being of our youth over the desires of people.


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