Florida lawmaker pulls cruel ‘Don’t Say Gay’ amendment requiring schools to forcibly out students

Joe Harding, sponsor of Florida's Don't Say Gay bill.

An amendment to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would have forced teachers to out LGBT+ students at risk of abuse, has been withdrawn.

HB 1557, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, aims to ban teachers in Florida schools “from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels”, or at any level if the discussion is “not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students”.

Under the bill, schools would not be able to “discourage or prohibit” giving parents information about a “student’s mental, emotional or physical well-being”, including their sexuality or gender identity. The only exception is if “that disclosure would result in abuse, abandonment or neglect”.

Shockingly, a recent amendment filed by the bill’s sponsor, representative Joe Harding, on Friday (18 February) would have mandated that teachers take all possible measures to out queer students, even if they are at risk of abuse.

The amendment stated that a school principal or “his or her designee shall develop a plan, using all available governmental resources, to disclose such information within six weeks after the decision to withhold such information from the parent”.

Despite pushing for teachers to out their at-risk students, the amendment continued: “The plan must facilitate disclosure between the student and parent through an open dialogue in a safe, supportive, and judgment-free environment that respects the parent-child relationship and protects the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of the student.”

Thankfully, on Monday (22 February), Harding withdrew the amendment.

According to USA Today, Harding’s amendment was due to be debated and voted on that day in Florida’s House of Representatives, but he quietly withdrew it before the debate could begin.

In a statement, Harding reassured everyone that he was at no risk of developing a conscience.

He said: “The exaggeration and misrepresentation in reporting about the amendment was a distraction; all the amendment did was create procedures around how, when and how long information was withheld from parents so that there was a clear process and kids knew what to expect.

“Nothing in the amendment was about outing a student. Rather than battle misinformation related to the amendment, I decided to focus on the primary bill that empowers parents to be engaged in their children’s lives.”

Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill is expected to go to a vote in the House on Thursday (24 February).