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Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Bill and “Don’t Say Gay”

About the Author: My name is Michael Lucy, a politically homeless conservative. Politically speaking, I identify as a Mugwump, a 19th century term for independent conservative. I am personally outraged, as are millions of others, with the recent events and conversations regarding government overreach into the lives of families with respect to child sex identity education. So let's get started ...

I am NOT a journalist, nor have any desire to be a journalist. That said, this article is written from both my my lived experiences, and from (civil) conversations with many people across the entire ideological spectrum. In short, I stand firm in my beliefs yet I am not a luddite and will certainly engage in civil discourse for the purpose of contributing to solving problems.

The Heated Debate of Sexual Identity and Parental Rights

The recent debate and emotions from both sides of ideological spectrum regarding sexual identity has exploded into a full fledged cold war, a cold culture war. There is so much pent up frustration, even anger. This cold culture war is a series of battles, albeit what feels to me like a series of escalating battles.

Florida's Parental Rights in Education Bill

The recent flashpoint in the sexual identity and "sexual justice" war is the battle over Florida, the catalyst for that battle being Governor DeSantis's Parental Rights in Education bill. The bill was signed on March 28th, 2022 and immediately created a firestorm of intense public debate. It's important to note that the bill was passed in the Florida Senate on March 8th, leading a 20 day on-ramp period of public discourse.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FLORIDA.GOV ANNOUNCEMENT

CLICK HERE TO READ THE BILL

Have you read the Parental Rights in Education bill? If not, I highly recommend that you do, matter of fact it's such an important and charged issue that every American should read the bill. In my humble opinion, this is (by far) the most pivotal and important societal decision of my lifetime (note that I was born well after the 1964 civil rights act).

Before the bill was signed and before the exact context of the bill was known, left-of-center media had already labeled the bill as; the "Don't Say Gay" bill. This label became so pervasive, so fast, on March 27th the day before the bill was signed (reminder, the bill was signed on March 28th) even Hollywood went on the offensive during the Oscar's ( see video below).

One of my personal biggest points of contention is when people argue, debate, and take a position on the bill without reading the bill. Those people are arguing from a 3rd hand/party perspective, typically from a shaped narrative heard from or watched on their (biased) media channel of choice. In short, READ THE BILL!

What the Bill Actually Says and Enacts

I have copied and pasted the preamble from the bill below, VERBATIM.

An act relating to parental rights in education; amending s. 1001.42, F.S.; requiring district school boards to adopt procedures that comport with certain provisions of law for notifying a student's parent of specified information; requiring such procedures to reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children in a specified manner; prohibiting the procedures from prohibiting a parent from accessing certain records; providing construction; prohibiting a school district from adopting procedures or student support forms that prohibit school district personnel from notifying a parent about specified information or that encourage or have the effect of encouraging a student to withhold from a parent such information; prohibiting school district personnel from discouraging or prohibiting parental notification and involvement in critical decisions affecting a student's mental, emotional, or physical well-being; providing construction; prohibiting classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels or in a specified manner; requiring certain training developed or provided by a school district to adhere to standards established by the Department of Education; requiring school districts to notify parents of healthcare services and provide parents the opportunity to consent or decline such services; providing that a specified parental consent does not wave certain parental rights; requiring school districts to provide parents with certain questionnaires or health screening forms and obtain parental permission before administering such questionnaires and forms; requiring school districts to adopt certain procedures for resolving specified parental concerns; requiring resolution within a specified timeframe; requiring the Commissioner of Education to appoint a special magistrate for unresolved concerns; providing requirements for the special magistrate; requiring the State Board of Education to approve or reject the special magistrate's recommendation within specified timeframe; requiring school districts to bear the costs of the special magistrate; requiring the State Board of Education to adopt rules; providing requirements for such rules; authorizing a parent to bring an action against a school district to obtain a declaratory judgment that a school district procedure or practice violates certain provisions of law; providing for the additional award of injunctive relief, damages, and reasonable attorney fees and court costs to certain parents; requiring school district to adopt policies to notify parents of certain rights; providing construction; requiring the department to review and update, as necessary, specified materials by a certain date; providing an effective date.

It would be prohibitive to copy/paste the entire bill into this article, once again that is why I recommend reading the bill in it's entirety (click here). NO WHERE in the bill does it say nor imply "Don't Say Gay." The bill is clearly crafted with two main objectives;

  • TRANSPARENCY - Ensuring a parents rights to have access to ALL information and material in which a child K-3 (ages 5-8) are being exposed and taught.
  • PROTECTING A CHILD'S WELL BEING (MENTALLY, PHYSICALLY, EMOTIONALLY) - "prohibiting school district personnel from discouraging or prohibiting parental notification and involvement in critical decisions affecting a student's mental, emotional, or physical well-being", which I interpret as "when an educator identifies an issue with a child's mental, emotional, or physical well being, the parent must be notified - NOT for the educator to take unilateral action without consent regarding the well being of the child."

There is absolutely NOTHING inhumane about ensuring that parents are informed if their child is having health issues (mental, emotional, or physical). The argument on the left is that if and when a child is experiencing mental or emotional health issues, that the student should confide in educators, not the parents.

Reminder, I am not a journalist (nor an attorney) so I will leave out any of my personal subjective reactions to the bill, while also refusing to sensationalize the bill or criticism of the bill since I am not paid to write this article, as opposed to a media outlet or journalist who are paid to attract and retain an audience of readers which, unfortunately, in todays world requires sensationalized headlines and stories.

The bill speaks for itself, it's clearly available for the public to read and form their/your own opinion.

"Don't Say Gay"

Prior to this article, I had very little knowledge of exactly how "Don't Say Gay" was introduced into vernacular at the time of the proposed Parental Rights in Education.

Media coverage of the bill heated up around the time the bill passed the Florida Senate on March 8th. So, there was certainly an on-ramp period for the term "Don't Say Gay" to take root and become main stream.

Why was/is there such a large and heated public resistance to the bill from those left-of-center?

I can't answer that, personally. I have (with civility) discussed this with a handful of left-of-center friends and family, two of which are left-of-center attorneys. The non-attorneys I have discussed this with had little or no knowledge of the exact bill and were simply stating (parroting) the default left-of-center positions typically heard on left leaning media. The attorneys I discussed with resorted to the question and argument; "What is gender?", which in my opinion has nothing to do with the bill.

My conclusion is that "Don't Say Gay" is a manifestation of both a counter culture resistance and "opposition politics." Opposition politics in this context meaning that left-of-center politicians, leaders, and elites simply oppose anything and everything proposed from anyone right-of-center.

Left-of-center people, leaders, and politicians are most critical of the language in Section 3 of the bill.

  1. Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.

I would hope (expect) that every human being would agree that parents should not only be responsible for but also be active in a child's education, not only traditional reading, writing, math, etc. but also responsible for and active in sex education. To construct a strawman argument that parents need not be involved in sexual education of K-3 (5-8 year old) children and that the state is more qualified to teach sexual education, is just wrong - SORRY, NOT SORRY.

With the understanding that I am not an attorney, there is some room in section 3 above for legal interpretation and/or manipulation, specifically the word OR in combination with in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.

There is absolutely NOTHING inhumane about ensuring that parents are informed if their child is having health issues (mental, emotional, or physical), which is the left's counter-argument and criticism of the bill. The argument of the left purports that;

  • Children ages 5-8 are more comfortable and open with teachers than with parents
  • Educators and teachers are more qualified to have conservations about sex with children ages 5-8

Lastly on the "Don't Say Gay" movement. It has been my observation that the "really smart" people on the left which includes attorneys, politicians, and elites are resorting to the constitutional argument that;

Conservatives and republicans are trying to block freedom of speech in the classroom between teachers and students.

This is where I will add opinion, subjectivity, and passion. It's a VERY slippery slope when you make the argument that Freedom of Speech applies in the classroom, especially when that freedom of speech involves impressionable 5-8 year old children. That slippery slope is so slippery that I, for one, do not accept that argument or position that a teacher of 5-8 year old children is given a blank check to talk with those children about intimate and potentially dangerous subjects like sexual identity.

Florida's Parental Rights in Education Bill and "Don't Say Gay"

We live in a free country where freedom and freewill is paramount. You and everyone else is 100% entitled to an opinion and position on this matter. I cherish not only that freedom for myself, but for the entirety of everyone that lives in a free world whatever your position is. Differences of opinions always happen, especially for important topics, the most important thing we remember is that these differences in opinion need to be solved in a civil manner.

This subject, this matter, this debate, and this law has far reaching consequences and must be carefully considered. There are three argument/positions that are in play;

  1. (right-of-center argument) Create laws that completely ban the introduction of and conversations about sexual identity in the classroom for ages 5-8, grades K-3.
  2. (left-of-center argument)Create laws that do NOT require disclosure to parents regarding the introduction of and conversations about sexual identity in the classroom.
  3. (centrist argument) Create laws that are a compromise and collaboration between teachers and parents for the introduction of and conversations about sexual identity.

If you put a gun to my head today and said; "Pick One", my pre-disposition would prompt me to respond; #1. That said, if given time, space, and an audience of people that could/would debate this in a civil manner, #3 is the long term choice I would certainly advocate, but we would need to clearly layout the rules.

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