On Thursday, Florida’s House of Representatives passed HB 1557, the bill that would prohibit a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels. The bill “prohibits instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, and, in other grade levels, bars discussion that is not ‘age or developmentally appropriate.’ It would also allow parents to sue school districts that go against the law,” CBS News reported.
The bill, backed by Republican members of the House, passed 69-47 and will be considered by the Florida Senate. If it is ultimately signed into law, it will be implemented for the 2022-2023 school year.
The sponsor of the bill, Republican Florida State Rep. Joe Harding, who has four children, told Fox News:
One, it defines that there are certain instructions related to gender and sexual orientation that are just not appropriate at certain ages and we define that as kindergarten through third grade. A school having curriculum that teaches gender and sexual orientation and what that means and getting into the weeds on that is just not age appropriate.
The second thing is that it creates a course of action for the parent who is dealing with a school district that has decided they are going to become the parent. They’re going to take your student that has anxiety and stress and mental concerns maybe even talking about self-harm and they’re going to put them in mental health and take steps to change the services at the school and protect that student from themselves but never engage with the parent. That’s just wrong so our bill seeks to remedy that.
Earlier this month, President Biden launched a bitter attack on the bill, tweeting, “I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community — especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill — to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are. I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki chimed in on February 8: “Let me first say that every parent, as one myself too, hopes that our leaders will ensure their children’s safety, protection, and freedom. And today, conservative politicians in Florida rejected those basic values by advancing legislation that is designed to target and attack the kids who need the support — support the most: kids from the LGBTQI+ community who are already vulnerable to bullying …”
Harding fired back with a video on Twitter in which he responded, “I want all kids to feel safe at school, but that also has nothing to do with this bill. HB 1557 lets parents access their kids’ school records more easily, prevents school districts from adopting policies that keep information away from parents and — here’s the controversial part — the bill directs school districts — and I’ll quote from the bill right here — ‘A school district may not encourage classroom discussion sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels.’ Jen, that is kindergarten through third grade. The bill is designed to keep school districts from talking about these topics before kids are ready to process them. I don’t think it’s controversial to empower parents … “
Harding noted Psaki added, “Make no mistake: This is not an isolated action in Florida. Across the country, we’re seeing Republican leaders taking action to regulate what students can or cannot read, what they can or cannot learn, and most troubling, who they can or cannot be.”
He blasted, “Distorting the facts, spreading fear, really just sidesteps the fact that none of the things that you are talking about are actually in the bill.”
Psaki said, “This is who these kids are. And these — these legislators are trying to make it harder for them to be who they are.”
“Kids can and they will talk about whatever they want at school,” Harding pointed out. “We just want to make sure teachers promote that discussion at the right age level and we want to make sure parents are kept in the loop.”
— Joe Harding (@josephbharding) February 9, 2022