From the #ZackPack

Why Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Bill Hurts Student Learning

By Danie Cooper, Lead Writer (Three Plus One Media)


Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill is a bill that will lead to the banning of LGBTQ+ discussion in Florida’s schools. Though Florida Gov. Ron Desantis claims this will only affect grades three and below, the ambiguous wording of the bill is purposeful in its use of “age-appropriate”. The vague use of this wording leaves room for interpretation and since the bill will allow parents to sue school districts, these districts will have little choice but to ban LGBTQ+ discussions in all grades.

What bothers me the most about the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida is that it actively goes against everything educators and psychologists know about students and learning. This bill turns its back on evidence-based practices and works to actively put children directly in harm’s way.

The bill also calls for educators to “out” their students to the student’s caregivers without the consent of the student. Not only does this put the student in a potentially traumatic position but it also increases the risk of abuse in the home. There is no shortage of statistics that tell us that LGBTQ+ youth suffer instances of abuse at the hands of their intolerant parents and caregivers, make up a large portion of homeless youth, and are at a larger risk of suicide.

According to the Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project, the largest LGBTQ+ suicide prevention organization in the US, “…LGBTQ youth who learned about LGBTQ issues or people in classes at school had 23% lower odds of reporting an attempt in the past year..” Not only will this bill kill the potential for students to learn about LGBTQ+ issues and people, but it will also make it unlawful to even acknowledge the existence of those LGBTQ+ people.

Not only does this bill breed intolerance in schools and place children in harm’s way, but it will also interfere with many students’ academic performance.

A quick Google search of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs tells us all we need to know about how well LGBTQ+ students will fare in Florida’s schools if the bill passes. The hierarchy demonstrates a five-tier model of human needs in motivational psychology. The goal, or the peak of the pyramid, is “Self-Actualization” where a person is able to grow into the best version of themselves. However, a person’s growth needs must be satisfied from the bottom up before they can experience true growth, or in this instance, learning.

At the base of the pyramid is physiological needs, followed by safety, love/belonging, and esteem. Once all of those needs are reasonably met, a person can reach the top where Maslow describes as “the most that one can be.”

This “Don’t Say Gay” bill has the potential to threaten all of the needs in the pyramid. How is a student expected to learn if they do not have safe shelter, due to LGBTQ+ youth homelessness? Can we really expect students to perform well academically if they do not feel safe to be themselves? Expecting a student to thrive in an environment where they are denied educators they can trust and the dignity of being a human being, goes against everything educators know about children and learning. If this bill is not rooted in any science, evidence, or data, I can’t help but assume it is simply the product of close-minded bigotry and will only prove to further harm those who are most vulnerable: our children.