TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee passed House Bill 1557, a government censorship bill that bans school districts and teachers from discussing topics related to LGBTQ+ issues, including conversations about sexual orientation or gender identity, at any grade level “in a manner that is not age-appropriate.”
The bill would require all “student support services training” in school districts to adhere to the guidelines and standards provided by the Florida Department of Education (DOE), which currently excludes anti-bullying resources intended to help prevent LGBTQ+ youth suicides.
Under the bill, any parent who thinks that a classroom discussion was inappropriate or who is unsupportive of a district's policies would be given broad powers to sue for damages and attorneys’ fees.
The Senate companion bill is SB 1834.
Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel of the ACLU of Florida, responded to today's hearing with the following:
“Children should not have to hide their identities in a place where they should feel safe to be themselves: Florida schools. This act of government censorship is cruel and is designed to silence students from speaking about their LGBTQ+ family members, friends, neighbors, and icons.
“This bill will directly harm our youth and put their lives at risk. It is a shame that the Florida legislature wants to cause even more harm to LGBTQ+ youth, who already experience higher rates of bullying, homelessness, and suicide.
“The bill’s language is overly broad and creates costly new liabilities for school districts. HB 1557 gives the green light to unsupportive parents, who disagree with classroom discussion, to sue the school districts involved. Not only does it threaten Florida teachers and school officials with frivolous lawsuits, but this dangerous bill wrongfully censors students' and teachers' right to free speech. It is always appropriate for kids to talk about themselves, their experiences, and their families. These are not taboo subjects, but banning them makes them seem so.
“The Legislature cannot force LGBTQ+ people back into the closet by policing identity or stopping kids from talking about their same-sex parents. The government should never be in the business of passing censorship bills, especially those that harm our kids. All of our kids should feel loved, accepted, and supported.”