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For Immediate Release

Contact

ACLU of Florida Media Office, media@aclufl.org

Press Release

ACLU of Florida Statement on Education Committee Passage of Senate Bill that Censors Free Speech and Discussions of Gender and Sexual Orientation in Classrooms

TALLAHASSEE, FL -

Today, the Senate Education Committee passed Senate Bill 1834, a bill that bans school districts and teachers from discussing topics related to LGBTQ+ issues, including conversations about sexual orientation or gender identity, in elementary and middle schools or at any level “in a manner that is not age-appropriate.”

The bill would require all “student support services trainings” in school districts to adhere to the guidelines and standards provided by the Florida Department of Education (DOE), which currently excludes anti-bullying resources intended to help prevent LGBTQ+ youth suicides.

The House companion bill is HB 1557.

Kara Gross, legislative director of the ACLU of Florida, responded to today's hearing with the following:

“This government censorship bill seeks to ban classroom discussions related to sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. If passed, it would effectively silence students from speaking about their LGBTQ+ family members, friends, neighbors, and icons.

“Additionally, it would bar LGBTQ+ students from talking about their own lives and would deny their very existence. It is always appropriate for kids to talk about themselves, their experiences, and their family. These are not taboo subjects, but banning them makes them seem so.

“SB 1834/HB 1557’s dangerously vague provisions would have a chilling effect on support for LGBTQ+ youth because it creates new costly liabilities for school districts. Under the bill, any parent who thinks that a classroom discussion was inappropriate or who is unsupportive of a district's policies would be given broad powers to sue for damages and attorneys’ fees.

“This bill does nothing to help and support our youth. Instead, it is meant to stigmatize LGBTQ+ people, isolate LGBTQ+ kids, and make teachers fearful of providing a welcoming and inclusive classroom. This bill will have a real and devastating impact on LGBTQ+ youth, who already experience higher rates of bullying, homelessness, and suicide.

“Legislators should oppose this bill and instead pass proposals that protect all students and truly address the challenges so many LGBTQ+ youth face in Florida schools.”

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The mission of the ACLU of Florida is to protect, defend, strengthen, and promote the constitutional rights and liberties of all people in Florida. We envision a fair and just Florida, where all people are free, equal under the law, and live with dignity.

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