A couple of months ago, I was driving through my neighborhood in Tallahassee, Florida, listening to a nationally syndicated radio show, when I heard something that made my ears perk up. The host mentioned a middle school in Florida that was being sued for discussing a student’s gender identity (preferred name, restroom preference, etc.) with the student but without consulting or even informing her parents.
What caught my attention was that the school had the same name as the school my son attends. But surely there is more than one school in the state of Florida with that name, I thought. My heart sank when the host said, “in Tallahassee.”
I had not heard of this case on the local news, and I don’t know the family. When I got home, I immediately did an internet search. Sure enough, the school in question, the one that was being accused of allowing a student to choose her own gender without informing her parents, was my son’s school.
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Local news station WCTV reported that, according to the lawsuit, the school district’s “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Gender Nonconforming and Questioning Support Guide,” instructs faculty and staff not to inform parents of any discussions they have had about the student “being LGBTQ+.”
Harold Hutchison of the Daily Caller News Foundation reported that the student’s mother had emailed her daughter’s teacher explaining that the parents “weren’t affirming [the gender change] at home,” but didn’t feel like they could stop her “from using a nickname” at school. Presumably, the student wanted to go by a different name.
However, according to the mother, weeks later when she picked her daughter up from school the girl said, “I had a meeting today about my name and they asked me which restroom I wanted to use.” This obviously shocked the mother because she had heard nothing from the school. When she contacted the school to find out what was going on, she says that she was told that her daughter “was now protected by law under a nondiscrimination law and they could not give [the parents] any information,” without the thirteen-year-old student authorizing it.
It sounds pretty crazy that a school would require a minor child to give consent before speaking to her parents. It’s this type of blatant disregard for the rights of parents to make decisions affecting their children’s well-being that compelled the Florida Legislature to recently pass the “Parental Rights in Education” bill.
The bill is only seven pages long and can be read in full here. It primarily deals with parental notification and consent concerning “healthcare services” for students or any monitoring by the school of a student’s “mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being.” The bill also requires school districts to create procedures to “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children by requiring school district personnel to encourage a student to discuss issues relating to his or her well-being with his or her parent or to facilitate discussion of the issue with the parent.”
The bill further forbids school districts from adopting procedures, like the one used in the above case, “that prohibit school district personnel from notifying a parent about his or her student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being…or encourage or have the effect of encouraging a student to withhold from a parent such information.”
Clearly, this is a parental rights bill enacted in response to Florida school districts, particularly the one my own children are in, adopting procedures that forbid schools notifying parents about things like gender transition. As the father of children in such a school district, I find the bill to be an appropriate and even much needed law.
But the White House and media apparently believe that enforcing parental rights is “horrific.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the bill “discriminatory,” “horrific,” and “a form of bullying.” President Biden tweeted that it is a “hateful bill” and strongly implied that it makes Florida children unsafe.
In an attempt to gaslight the public, the media have given the “Parental Rights in Education” bill the hyperbolic name: “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Apparently believing that the bill actually forbids the use of the word “gay” in Florida schools, Mark Hamill, who you’ll remember for his role as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, tweeted the word “gay” about thirty times.
And Disney CEO Bob Chapek recently changed his mind about remaining politically neutral, folding in the face of Twitter mobs and online petitions, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. “We were opposed to the bill from the outset, but we chose not to take a position on it,” he told shareholders. “We felt we could be more effective behind the scenes.”
Breitbart has reported that Chapek called Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to “express [Disney’s] disappointment and concern that if the legislation becomes law, it could be used to unfairly target gay, lesbian, non-binary, and transgender kids and families.”
Wow! Based on the responses from our elite, one might think that this “horrific” bill encouraged Nazi brownshirts to beat up little homosexual kids. Governor DeSantis must be a monster.
But here’s the thing—the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill doesn’t do anything like that. It doesn’t even prevent anyone from saying “gay” as the alias “Don’t say gay” would suggest. Nor does it discriminate against anyone. The only part of the bill that mentions anything related to “gay” is paragraph three, which states in whole: “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in any manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” That’s it.
The bulk of the bill is about parents’ rights to know what is going on with their child. A single paragraph says that schools cannot teach 5- to 9-year-olds about “sexual orientation or gender identity.” That’s reasonable.
This paragraph is where the propaganda about “don’t say gay” comes from, but it clearly does not prevent anyone from saying “gay.” And the slight prohibition against teaching “sexual orientation” only applies to the youngest children. I have children in third grade, and I don’t want the school teaching them about sex at all.
Despite the clear misinformation the media is spreading about this bill, I have yet to see social media crack down on it. The good news is that DeSantis is making the media’s intentional distortion obvious.
Recently when a reporter asked him about the so-called “Don’t say gay” bill, DeSantis challenged the reporter to tell him if the bill actually said that. It does not. DeSantis then accused the reporter of “peddling false narratives” and explained that that kind of misinformation was exactly why people no longer trust the media.
The Florida Governor also responded to Disney: “When you have companies that have made a fortune off being family-friendly and catering to families and young kids, they should understand that parents of young kids do not want this injected into their kid’s kindergarten classroom.”
DeSantis didn’t stop there. He pointed out Disney’s hypocrisy for attacking the government of Florida while cozying up to the genocidal government in Communist China. “If that’s the hill they’re going to die on, then how do they possibly explain lining their pockets with their relationship from the Communist Party of China? Because that’s what they do, and they don’t say a word about the really brutal practices that you see over there at the hands of the CCP,” the governor said.
But why is everyone making such a big deal about this bill? Are they really that afraid of parents having a say in their children’s lives? Yes, they are. And though the bill does not go very far at all, and the overreaction to it can be described as hyperbole at best and deliberate lies at worst, it is a step in the right direction. That is what they fear.
As frequent Crisis contributor Paul Kengor explained well in his excellent book The Devil and Karl Marx: Communism’s Long March of Death, Deception, and Infiltration (TAN Books, 2020), the Left plays the long game. They took over our institutions not in one fell swoop, but bit-by-bit over the course of the last century. They recognize very well that this bill, though just a tiny nibble on the periphery of their power, could represent the beginning of a long push to undo all that they have done. That is what they fear. And by God’s grace, may it come to pass.
[Photo Credit: CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images]