Combatting prejudice in the classroom


Photo provided by: Find Law

Delaney Rosenblatt, Staff Reporter

I am an inherently political person. I care deeply about those in my community, state, and country, and have no issue speaking up about things I believe, or not believe, in. I am sure many, if not all Florida high schoolers have heard something in the news, from their friends, or teachers about House Bill 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. This bill, in the most simple terms, limits when and how teachers and staff can discuss gender and sexual orientation in the classroom. As this bill moves swiftly through the legislative process, more outrage and disappointment is being expressed.

I am also a critic of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, for many reasons. As a reminder, this bill only explicitly applies to Kindergarten-Third Grade. Exposure to diverse people and ways of life will never have any negative effects on a student. As we grow into a more diverse, and subsequently accepting society, restricting legislation like HB 1557 should have never even been proposed.

I have several ideas as to why this bill was proposed, but the most present theory in my mind is the wide generational gaps between politicians, and outspoken young voters. Generation Z, also known as Gen Z, has displayed their prowess over politics recently. In fact, the 2020 presidential election was the election with the highest turnout rate of young people in recorded history (CBS). If anything, this statistic should communicate the importance of Gen Z voters to politicians, but in Florida, that does not seem to be the case. Because of a lack of true representation of their respective constituencies, early supporters of this bill are being heavily criticized.

This criticism is coming in many forms, including large walkouts at school, and President Biden’s public repudiation of the bill through Twitter posts. High school students specifically, are developing intense opinions regarding this bill, and are ready to speak their mind. This youth activism that is showing up not only throughout Florida, but the entire country, teenagers have just as strong political opinions as adults and politicians.

There is no accurate comparison that can be made between the LGBTQ+ community, which is actively being marginalized by this bill, and any other minority group, but I will still attempt to make comparisons. Imagine if this bill subliminally discriminated against those of the Jewish faith, rather than the LGBTQ+ community. Both groups have already experienced hate and discrimination from others in the past, and still do today. Most Kindergarteners have holiday parties (mainly focusing on Christmas, as a large percentage of Americans practice this religion), but with the implementation of this proposed (theoretical) bill, students would not be exposed to the traditional Jewish holiday, Hannukah. This example seems unfathomable in today’s culture  because most, if not all, recognize that this is unfair, and borderline bigotry. As stated earlier, American culture has become more progressive throughout history. First came WWII, where the Jewish people and other minority groups faced discrimination from Nazi Germany. Next came the desegregation of public schools and other locations in the 1960’s. In 2015, the Supreme Court struck down all bans on same-sex marriage in the United States, and therefore entered the age of LGBTQ acceptance. Not only would this bill limit exposure to other world views and cultures, it would make those students and staff members that belong to that already marginalized group feel left out and potentially discriminated against. Simply glossing over important aspects of history is not acceptable, and Florida legislators must prove this by voting against this bill.

Besides the borderline homophobic views that are expressed throughout this bill, legislators are failing to recognize that LGBTQ+  history is not even being covered in schools. As of the ‘Next Generation Sunshine State Standards- Social Studies, 2021,’ ‘ there is no mention of LGBTQ+ history for elementary schoolers, better yet, no mention for any grades. One could argue that events like the Stonewall riots and Pulse shooting were not significant enough to include in standards and textbooks, but I would also like to point out other important American events are left out of this curriculum too, like the events of 9/11. In fact, history textbooks for elementary schoolers in Seminole County have not been updated since 2001, meaning that our elementary students are entering middle school without essential knowledge of many key American historical events. Personally, I find it concerning that politicians are focused on controlling more and more aspects of the classroom, instead of addressing the immediate concerns schools are facing. The time being spent to advocate and vote on the ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill’ takes away attention from other important pieces of legislation, and more importantly, other concerns in schools. Textbooks are outdated, teacher salaries are incredibly low, and there is a drastic shortage of about 5,000 teachers across the state. 

Parents, students and staff members seem to recognize these big picture problems, but many politicians do not. As stated before, age and generation gaps seem to be causing some of these issues, but an array of out-of-touch legislators are also contributors. In order to make constituents happy, politicians must focus on issues that are relevant and worthwhile. Although Floridians will not forget the controversy over the ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill’ anytime soon, the legislation itself will become a blip in the sea of unnecessary and restricting bills Florida politicians have passed.