Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill seems to have finally brought real attention to the years-long legislative crisis unfolding against LGBTQ+ (and especially trans) people. Signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis late last month, the bill bans discussion of gender and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade classes, and could potentially bar such discussions at all age levels depending on what is determined to be “age appropriate.” Among its many egregious measures, it empowers parents to sue school districts for perceived violations, and also requires schools to notify parents of any changes related to a student’s “mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being.”
Although the bill’s catchy “Don’t Say Gay” moniker has drawn international attention, this risks misleading people into believing that the law is uniquely evil. Unfortunately, it’s one of hundreds of bills filed over the past few years that seek to essentially eradicate queer people from public life. Whether framed as upholding “parental rights” or “protecting our children,” conservatives’ focus on public schools as a site of amoral contagion has been renewed with a fury perhaps not seen since the days of Anita Bryant. As of April 13, the ACLU counts 42 bills that have been filed this year alone pertaining to school and curriculum restrictions. Below, read about three other bills that also target schools as a place to roll back LGBTQ+ rights. Unlike Florida’s, these bills are still in progress — meaning there’s still time to campaign against them.New Hampshire’s HB 1431
HB 1431, which would establish a “parental bill of rights” in education, actually predates Florida’s law by about a month. Introduced on December 1, 2021, the bill establishes parents’ right to “direct the upbringing and the moral or religious training of his or her minor child.” It also mandates public schools to disclose “the nature and purpose of clubs and activities” to parents, and would give them the right to “object to instructional materials,” as well as the right to exempt their children from “a particular health or sex education instruction.” Violators would be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $1,200. Additionally, if a parent alleges a “violation” of one of these rights, they can bring a suit against the state or “any of its political subdivisions.”
Although the bill doesn’t specifically mention LGBTQ+ people, extracurriculars such as Gay/Queer-Straight Alliances have raised particular concern among the Fox News crowd, who claims that such clubs are evidence that teachers are “grooming” children into a sinister agenda. Similarly, conservatives have alleged that lessons concerning LGBTQ+ people and history are tantamount to “grooming,” which is likely why the right to object to “instructional materials” and certain sex education lessons are included in this bill.
HB 1431 was passed by the New Hampshire House of Representatives on March 15. A Senate vote is expected sometime over the next few weeks; if it passes and is signed into law, it will take effect on January 1, 2023.Arizona’s HB 2161
HB 2161 is worded similarly to the New Hampshire bill. Unfortunately, it’s also much more comprehensive than the New Hampshire bill. In addition to establishing a “parents’ bill of rights,” Arizona’s version specifies that any attempt by any employee of the state (except for law enforcement) “to encourage or coerce a minor child to withhold information from the child’s parent” is grounds for discipline.
It also specifies that parents are allowed to object to instructional materials if it “questions [their] beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion.” Parents must also be notified in advance if a teacher plans to incorporate “sexuality” into instructional materials other than sex education, and will be given the option to opt their children out. The bill would also prohibit school districts from offering sex education to students unless their parents sign a permission slip allowing them to participate. But even if a parent allows their child to receive sex education, this bill specifically would give them the “right” to ban their child from learning about AIDS.
Last but certainly not least, the bill would give parents the right to access all written and electronic records pertaining to their child, including participation in extracurricular activities and clubs, counseling records, reports of behavioral patterns, and email and other online accounts.
HB 2161 passed the Arizona House on February 24, and awaits Senate approval; considering that both the Senate minority and majority caucuses voted in favor of the bill on March 22 though, it’s likely that it will pass there as well.Tennessee’s SB 2360
This bill would also establish a “Parent Bill of Rights.” Predictably, SB 2360 shares quite a few characteristics with the New Hampshire and Arizona bills. But Tennessee’s version would also give parents the right to review curriculum, teacher manuals, and textbooks without having to sign a non-disclosure agreement, as well as the right to review the materials available in a school library, and specifically, the materials that their child has borrowed from the library. The bill would also mandate schools to provide parents with a list of all school organizations available to students, and would require students to get written parental consent before participating in any extracurricular clubs.
SB 2360 has been passed by Tennessee’s Education Committee and awaits a vote from the Senate Health and Welfare Committee as of March 23.Others of note
While not all bills pertaining to public education refer to themselves as a “parental bill of rights,” there are plenty of bills out there that similarly seek to censor instruction and provide parents with a frankly terrifying amount of oversight. NPR recently reported on a few of them, including an Alabama bill that would prohibit discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in K-5th grade classrooms, as well as similarly situated bills in Louisiana and South Carolina.