An amendment to a proposed law that would have forced teachers in Florida to notify parents of their student's sexual orientation within six weeks of being informed was withdrawn Tuesday amid heavy pushback from Democrats and LGTBQ advocates.
The proposed amendment to the so-called Don't Say Gay bill was withdrawn Tuesday by its sponsor, Republican Rep. Joe Harding, who is pushing for classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity to be banned for kindergarten through third grade "or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."
In a video posted to Twitter, Harding defended the bill as a way to "empower parents" and keep young children from participating in discussions around sexual orientation.
The Trevor Project, a crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, condemned the bill, citing its own research that found the inclusion of sexual identity issues in the classroom can benefit queer students' mental health. LGBTQ students who learned about queer issues in the classroom had a 23% lower chance of reporting a suicide attempt, the group added.
“Banning speech about sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida classrooms would not only be an infringement on civil rights, it would also erase entire chapters of history, classic literature, and critical health information from textbooks, to say nothing of erasing students themselves," said Sam Ames, director of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project, in a statement. "LGBTQ youth deserve to learn that they are not alone — that they have a rich history and culture, and heroes like Marsha P. Johnson, Harvey Milk, and Bayard Rustin."
Harding did not respond to a request for comment.
Besides sexual orientation and gender identity, the bill would also require the school to inform parents of healthcare services offered on campus and notify them about any health screenings for their child in kindergarten through third grade.
Lawmakers in the House are expected to vote on amendments to the bill before it goes to the state Senate for review.
The US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. The Trevor Project, which provides help and suicide-prevention resources for LGBTQ youth, is 1-866-488-7386. Find other international suicide helplines at Befrienders Worldwide (befrienders.org).