How to end up with dead kids

The Florida House of Representatives are passing legislation to ostracize the children in their schools

Timothy Spierings

More stories from Timothy Spierings


LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to consider or even attempt suicide than their peers.

*This OP/ED discusses potentially triggering topics like transphobia, homophobia, suicide, self-harm and racism. Reader discretion is advised*

A bill being passed through the Florida state government recently has gained national popularity and earned the nickname of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. 

The Florida House of Representatives passed the bill on Feb. 24, according to National Public Radio. Also known as Senate Bill 1834 “Parental Right in Education” and House Bill 1557, the bill aims to prevent conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools with ambiguous language that leaves a lot open to interpretation.

The legislation states that these topics can’t be discussed in primary schooling “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.” 

Representative Joe Harding is the one who first introduced the legislature, according to NBC. He said it’s about empowering parents and increasing the quality of children’s lives. He said it’s about “creating boundaries” to show what’s appropriate in early ages. 

That begs the question of why Harding considers people who aren’t straight or cisgender “inappropriate” topics. 

All this bill does is open loopholes for child abuse and bigotry. Even if schools do try to provide information about sexual orientation and gender identity, it doesn’t matter because if parents take issue with it they have the legislature to back up suing the school or teacher for choosing to do so. 

Ultimately what this bill achieves is stigmatization. It teaches kids that they are wrong for who they are and being different to the “ideal image” of a person — white, heterosexual and cisgender — is something to be ashamed of, that they are taboo.

The Florida House also passed the Stop WOKE Act, which bans the topics of gender identity and race in schools to prevent students from feeling uncomfortable. 

According to the Census Bureau, Florida is a predominantly white state, with 77.3% of respondents identifying as “white alone.” That still leaves a large number of people who live in Florida, 494,431,606 estimated people that don’t identify as white, currently in Florida.

In talking about race, if someone feels uncomfortable talking about it, they need to examine where that discomfort is coming from and why they feel like that. 

The damage of being fed such rhetoric for most of one’s childhood has long lasting effects, if the child makes it to adulthood. It’s not the first time lawmakers have pushed for bigotry and hate in Florida, and it probably won’t be the last.

According to the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ suicide awareness organization, suicide is already the second most likely cause of death in young people. For those among the LGBTQ community, they are four times more likely to consider, plan and even attempt suicide than others.

The Trevor Project estimates that every 45 seconds, at least one LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 tries to commit suicide in the United States. It also states that this number likely underrepresents how often it occurs. 

If research from an LGBTQ rights group feels too biased, the National Library of Medicine also has a study that proves living in anti-gay communities significantly shortens an LGBTQ person’s life. 

This could also affect children in Florida’s public schools that aren’t part of the LGBTQ community. Growing up with the rhetoric that LGBTQ people are wrong or something to avoid acknowledging just teaches kids to contribute to the cycle of hate.

It is likely that the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, will pass the bill if it makes it to him too. DeSantis indicated before that he supports the effort earlier in February.

The argument that parents deserve to know what’s being taught in the classroom is short sighted. A quick Google search about when someone should come out will show that every person has to consider how safe they will be if they come out to family or friends. 

Parents are not always interested in their child’s wellbeing, sometimes their opinion of what their child should be matters more to them than their child’s life. 

If Florida lawmakers truly care about the lives of their schoolchildren, they need to consider what this bill really means for every kid in their schools. Not just the ones they think matter, not just the ones that they care about. Every child matters.

Spierings can be reached at [email protected].