Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/Shutterstock Karine Jean-Pierre
With Pride Month in the rearview, Florida has taken a sharp right turn on its acknowledgement of the LGBTQ+ community.
On day one of Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law, enacted through the controversial "Parental Rights in Education" bill that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed in March, schools are already looking and feeling different — and according to the White House, the changes are not for the better.
"Today, some of Florida's most vulnerable students and families are more fearful and less free," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wrote in a statement Friday. "As the state's shameful 'Don't Say Gay' law takes effect, state officials who claim to champion liberty are limiting the freedom of their fellow Americans simply to be themselves."
The law in question aims to erase influences in the classroom that are "not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students" in third grade and below. While the language of the law was left relatively vague, it was drafted to exclude LGBTQ+ people from the conversation.
"Already, there have been reports that 'Safe Space' stickers are being taken down from classrooms. Teachers are being instructed not to wear rainbow clothing. LGBTQI+ teachers are being told to take down family photos of their husbands and wives — cherished family photos like the ones on my own desk," Jean-Pierre, who is openly gay, said in the statement.
Americans across the nation have spoken out against the new rule, noting that it will further harm already marginalized children who rely on the safety of school to express themselves. Some say that if it results in removing LGBTQ+ topics from textbooks — something legal experts have determined a possibility based on the phrasing of the bill — it will lower the quality of students' education.
The law was framed as a parental rights bill that gives parents the ultimate decision over what their children should be taught about topics like sexual orientation and gender identity, but critics disagree.
"This is not an issue of 'parents' rights.' This is discrimination, plain and simple," Jean-Pierre said. "It's part of a disturbing and dangerous nationwide trend of right-wing politicians cynically targeting LGBTQI+ students, educators, and individuals to score political points."
She continued: "It encourages bullying and threatens students' mental health, physical safety, and well-being. It censors dedicated teachers and educators who want to do the right thing and support their students. And it must stop."
The Trevor Project, an organization centered around suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth, has said the bill will erase "LGBTQ identity, history, and culture — as well as LGBTQ students themselves."
The non-profit noted that LGBTQ+ youth who have access to spaces that affirm their sexual orientation and gender identity have lower rates of trying to kill themselves than those who did not.
"President Biden has been very clear that every student deserves to feel safe and welcome in the classroom," Jean-Pierre said. "The Department of Education will be monitoring this law, and any student or parent who believes they are experiencing discrimination is encouraged to file a complaint with the Department's Office for Civil Rights."
"Our Administration will continue to fight for dignity and opportunity for every student and family—in Florida and around the country."