Words by Smiley Team
Students throughout Florida have left the classroom and are hoping to influence positive change across the country, by going against the Parental Rights in Education Act – better known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The bill would limit the conversation and instruction on LGBTQ+ rights in Florida kindergarten through third-grade students.
“We’re going to make sure that parents are able to send their kid to kindergarten without some of this stuff injected into their school curriculum,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a press conference.
Democratic Florida Rep. Carlos G Smith said at a protest on the steps of the Florida Capitol: “We will get up, stand up, wake up every single day to fight for you because your lives matter." In said protest, chants broke out saying, “We Say Gay,” and singing the word “gay” along to the tune of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.”
There is still a sense of hope and optimism among those against the bill. "We have to create a learning environment where [people within the LGBTQ+ community] feel safe and healthy, or it's not an effective learning environment," Heather Wilkie of the Zebra Coalition, a Central Florida LGBTQ advocacy group, told ABC News.
Student walkouts have been staged all over Florida in protest of the bill, some as far south as Miami like at Miami’s iPrep Academy, in central Florida like Winter Park High School in Orange County, and as far north as Tallahassee's Leon High School.
“We can tell these politicians that they have underestimated us for the last time," Kaylee Sandell, a Leon High school student, told the Tallahassee Democrat. "This is what will happen if they don't keep on listening to us.”
The Winter Park protest was organized by high school juniors, Will Larkins and Maddi Zornek.
“We wanted to show our government that this isn’t going to stop," Larkins told CNN. "We wanted to get the attention of our representatives, our senators because the point is to show them that we are the ones in powers. The people are the ones in powers, and what they’re doing doesn’t represent us, especially marginalized groups.”
At the Tallahassee protest, protesters made their way into the Capitol courtyard and were greeted by Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.
“Those of you who are LGBTQ youth, we stand with you, we see you, you matter, and we get up and fight for you every single day,” Smith told the protestors.
The two bills in the state legislature, HB 1557 and SB 1834, state that a school district “may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students".
Support LGBTQ organizations across the country who are on a mission to make our world and country more equally represented.
SUPPORT: The Trevor Project for young LGBTQ lives. Find out more.
GET INVOLVED: The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is one of the best-known LGBTQ+ charities in the U.S. and around the world. Find out more.
DONATE: The Point Foundation is of the only LGBTQ+ nonprofits that offers college scholarships to LGBTQ+ high school seniors.