From July 1, LGBTQ+ students in six American states will experience significant changes in their school environment.
Ten anti-LGBTQ laws related to education were recently implemented. One of the laws included is called "Don't Say Gay or Trans," which limits the discussion of gender and sexuality in schools. The implementation of these changes in laws related to education has raised concerns about the potential for creating vastly different learning environments for LGBTQ+ students. This may have lasting and significant effects on both their well-being and academic success.
This means that in these states, teachers and administrators will be required by law to discriminate against LGBTQ+ students. They will be prohibited from using inclusive language, providing resources or support, or even acknowledging the existence of LGBTQ+ people. This will have a profound impact on the lives of LGBTQ+ students, who will now have to go to school in an environment that is hostile and unwelcoming.
Since July 1, transgender student-athletes in Indiana, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Utah can’t join a sports team that corresponds to their gender identity anymore. This discriminatory policy singles out transgender youth and denies them the opportunity to take part in the sport of their choice.
These so-called “protection of female athletes” bills are nothing more than discrimination disguised as concern. They are based on the false premise that transgender women have an unfair advantage over cisgender women.
The lawmakers who introduced these bills have no interest in protecting children and young girls or promoting equality. All they want is to advance their own sectarian agenda and roll back the progress that has been made in recent years in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, pure revenge for the defeat in the last presidential election.
Elizabeth Skarin, campaign director at the American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, said some cisgender students could be affected by some of these policies as these laws are vague and confusing.
“The laws are either poorly written or they’re unclear or they sort of leave open the door to questions, which is typically not what you want out of a law,” Skarin said.
For example, we know that very few transgender female athletes actually compete in sports. So who is going to be targeted by these bans? Well, athletes likely deemed too masculine, too strong, ... I don’t know what else... will be targeted by these bans. Not to mention queer athletes, of course.
The law in South Dakota is also alarming because it will be more difficult to sue the state for violation of the Equal Rights Amendment or Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which protects students from a whole host of discrimination.
And the recent law passed in South Dakota makes it harder for courts to block discriminatory laws when they are challenged.
In Alabama, the new anti-LGBTQ law not only prevents transgender youth from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity but also bars them from using bathrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities of that type.
As of July 1, Florida is now a state that no longer allows discussions about LGBTQ+ people. The Parental Rights in Education Act, better known as the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law, went into effect on that date, and it prohibits educators from discussing anything related to homosexuality or transgenderism with students in kindergarten through third grade.
Now, if a teacher does happen to mention the word “gay” in class, they can be punished.
This disgusting law was championed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has shown time and time again that he has no regard for the safety or well-being of LGBTQ+ Floridians. This legislation will do nothing but further marginalize and isolate young people, making them feel unwelcome in their own state.
And it’s ridiculous that state officials maintain the ban does not limit discussion of LGBTQ issues when educators themselves say they have not received specific guidance to give them that assurance.
“School policy should focus on education, not discrimination,” Joni Madison, Interim President of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.
She continued: “Governor DeSantis’s ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ law is a shameful attack on students already struggling with the weight of discrimination. It is a slapdash, mean-spirited, impossible-to-comply-with law designed to make LGBTQ+ students feel shame and isolation at school, a place where every child deserves a chance to learn and succeed.
“The Human Rights Campaign strongly condemns these discriminatory policies taking effect on Friday and will continue fighting for Floridians who deserve to exist freely, proudly, and to have their stories shared.
“Parents, teachers, doctors, business and faith leaders, and countless others in communities across the country are increasingly standing up and uniting to speak out against these vicious efforts to marginalize LGBTQ+ students.
“Shameful efforts to replicate DeSantis’ ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ law in other states are being pursued by extremist legislators trying to rile up a small but radical base, who foolishly believe peddling hate against children will win them support at the ballot box come November.
“We have a message for them: The country is tired of watching you use the lives of our children for personal political power. And come November, we’ll make sure you hear that message from all of us, loud and clear.”
Like Florida, Alabama has also approved a “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law that prohibits any discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in schools.
In Florida and Alabama, lawmakers have proposed bills that would silence LGBTQ+ students in the classroom by prohibiting any discussion of topics that concern their identity. But these bills go even further than that. They also require teachers, counselors, and other school personnel to report children’s LGBTQ+ identities to their parents, whether the parents support them.
We know this will put some kids at risk, as research has shown that LGBTQ+ youth experience higher rates of parental violence and homelessness than their heterosexual or cisgender peers.
School districts across the state are now implementing those policies that infringe on students’ rights and privacy.
As if it wasn’t bad enough, now anyone can file a complaint against a school or staff member for not respecting the law. As with the abortion ban, people are invited to report and sue everyone who speaks out against these hateful laws and stand up for what’s right. It’s creating a climate of suspicion and denunciation that is really unhealthy!
On July 1, another law went into effect in Florida that is extremely dangerous to freedom of speech.
The “Stop WOKE” act restricts people working in workplaces with over fifteen employees and classrooms.
The “Stop WOKE” act censors any dialogue about racism, discrimination, gender inequality, and other issues of injustice, while also amending the state’s employment discrimination statutes to allow employees to sue their employers if they engage in training or discussions about LGBTQ+ issues or the Black community for example.
Civil rights and LGBTQ+ advocates are extremely concerned because these policies will have a direct and negative impact on students’ lives. They not only attack their freedom of expression but also their right to be safe and protected from discrimination. These policies not only have the potential to exclude and ostracize LGBTQ+ people but also anyone who does not fit into the mold defined by these extreme legislators.