'Work doesn’t feel safe': LGBTQ Florida teachers struggle to comply with 'Don’t Say Gay' law

'Work doesn’t feel safe': LGBTQ Florida teachers struggle to comply with 'Don’t Say Gay' law
Image via screengrab.

Teachers in Florida are growing increasingly frustrated over how to manage their classrooms following Republican Governor Ron DeSantis's signing of House Bill 1557 – the Parental Rights in Education Act, otherwise known as the "Don't Say Gay" legislation – into law this past March that took effect in July.

"HB 1557 is at the epicenter of a raging debate over what should be taught to children in America’s public school systems. Debates over teaching the nation’s history of systemic racism have roiled school districts and elections, and a now growing number of states are considering limiting classroom instruction about LGBTQ issues as well," Time wrote in a report on Thursday.

Opposition to HB 1557 has reverberated throughout the country, with voices across the political spectrum decrying the regulations as arbitrary, discriminatory, and nearly impossible to effectively enforce.

READ MORE: Florida's ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law takes effect today as schools scramble to avoid parental lawsuits

"The raft of laws being introduced and passed around the country include bans like Florida’s on LGBTQ instruction in certain grade levels, but also some broader censorship of books that include LGBTQ themes or the teaching of controversial topics," the outlet continued. "Defenders of these policies largely say they give parents more power over what their kids learn and ensure they’re engaging with appropriate materials. But critics argue they’re responding to a problem that doesn’t exist and could negatively impact the mental health of LGBTQ youth."

The magazine learned through interviews with educators that "LGBTQ teachers are particularly concerned about inconsistent application among school districts and how far the implications of the law extend into other grades and classroom environments," noting that "public school districts are now banned from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3 or 'in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.'"

HB 1557's provisions have left parents, students, and teachers in states of confusion over what is acceptable and what is not. Things get particularly murky, for example, regarding how instructors should handle a child coming out of the closet in what is supposed to be a safe space for everybody.

Time noted that the law "states that parents of K-12 students must be notified if there 'is a change in the student’s services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being'" and that it "also allows parents to access any of their child’s health or educational records used by the school district."

READ MORE: LGBTQ student says he’s being blocked from running for class president after suspension over ‘Don’t Say Gay’ protest

LGBTQ educators are also worried that HB 1557 could exacerbate Florida's teacher shortage.

"The loss of LGBTQ teachers could be especially devastating for LGBTQ students," said Daffne Cruz, an assistant principal in Polk County, Florida. Cruz told Time that LGBTQ students "'usually flock' to her due to her openness about her identity."

Cruz revealed that "she got into education to be the representation I didn’t have growing up. I want the students to know that even though all these things in the world are going on, here’s a little pocket of safeness for you.”

READ MORE: High school teacher forced to remove 'COEXIST' flag as Ron DeSantis celebrates 'Don’t Say Gay' law

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