On Tuesday, the White House criticized Republicans for leading a controversial Florida bill that would prohibit some discussions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom, saying it’s part of a larger trend of GOP leaders around the nation taking steps to address students like political guarantees.
In Florida, Republicans have advanced legislation, which opponents have titled the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, that says school districts “may not encourage discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
It is not explicit what would be considered “age” or “developmentally” relevant. On Monday, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis seemed to stand in favor of the measure.
Today, conservative politicians in Florida advanced legislation designed to attack LGBTQI+ kids. Instead of making growing up harder for young people, @POTUS is focused on keeping schools open and supporting students’ mental health.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 8, 2022
The Legislation Would Hurt Kids Who Need the Most Protection
In a statement, Kevin Munoz, the White House assistant press secretary said, the measure would upset children who need the maximum protection in school and are “already vulnerable to bullying and violence just for being themselves.”
Munoz said “But make no mistake — this is not an isolated action. Across the country, we’re seeing Republican leaders take actions to regulate what students can or cannot read, what they can or cannot learn, and most troubling, who they can or cannot be,” adding further “This is politics at its worse, cynically treating our students as pawns in a game and not people who deserve love and respect.
At every step of the way, Republicans have peddled in cheap, political attacks, instead of focusing on the issues parents, students, and teachers care about.”
On Tuesday evening, President Joe Biden took to Twitter writing, “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 protection and safety you deserve.”
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. https://t.co/OcAIMeVpHL
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 8, 2022
Opponents of the bill caution that it would result in further discrimination of gay, lesbian and transgender kids, leading to more oppressive suicides within an already disparaged community.
They call that the bill would remove LGBTQ history from the curriculum and halt educators from conducting conversations in their classrooms if questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity turned up.
Backers of the bill stated that the moratorium is focused on school districts and that it would not stop teachers from having those discussions if they stemmed.
Neither, they say, would it stop same-sex parents from involving in classroom activities or hold teachers from funding gay-lesbian alliance clubs.
Bill Gaining Momentum
Despite vicious dissent from Democrats and LGBTQ advocates, the bill is gathering momentum in the Florida Legislature, leading to Tuesday’s meeting of the state Senate Education Committee. A House edition of the bill got a reasonable vote from its Education Committee last month.
DeSantis said on Monday that it was “entirely inappropriate” for educators and school administrators to have discussions with students regarding their gender identities, stating that in certain schools, children are told, “Don’t worry, don’t pick your gender yet.” However, DeSantis also admitted, “I don’t think it’s happening here in large numbers.”
At a press event on Monday, the governor said “Schools need to be teaching kids to read, to write,” adding further “They need to teach them science, history. We need more civics and understanding of the US Constitution, what makes our country unique, all those basic things.”
White House Decided to Take Rare Action
On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the White House decided to take the rare action of censuring the bill to make a statement.
Psaki told reporters “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 support, support the most, kids from the LGBTQI+ community, who are already vulnerable to bullying — and we’ve seen that in study after study — and violence, just for being themselves and just for being who they are.”