A Sticky Situation in Florida

To a child, a sticker is a reward.  It’s a gold star on a chart.  It’s an appreciation for good grades, a hand-out at the doctor’s office for good behavior.

But take away a sticker from a child through no fault of his own, it becomes a symbol of shame. As of July 1st, Governor DeSantis has ordered teachers in Orange County, Florida to scrape rainbow stickers off doors and windows and remove stickers denoting a particular classroom in a “safe space” for LGBT students and others to be removed.  How is an LGBT+ child going to feel? He’s being erased!

It doesn’t stop there!  The teachers are not allowed to wear rainbows, the symbols of diversity, on their clothing.  Through the dictates of DeSantis, the teachers, if they are in a same-sex relationship, are not permitted to have pictures of their partners.  The whole classroom is to be wiped clean of any diversity. If teachers find out that a student is gay, he/she has to report, like the KGB, the outing to the parent. (Often, a teacher is the only ally the child has if he is not accepted at home and the teacher could be non cisgender). The students have to be addressed by the pronouns assigned at birth, not the pronouns they prefer.  Smack of “The Handmaid’s Tale?”

In older grades, what content is appropriate in the classroom?  Who knows?

# Stop The Stickers

This isn’t the first time rainbow stickers have been contentious. A student-led peaceful demonstration, a walkout from Lyman School in Seminole, Florida, protested DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay Bill or Parental Rights in Education Bill HB 1557 that denies discussion of LGBT issues such as sexual orientation and gender identity in K-3 Florida schools.

The Lyman School protestors, along with other school students, had their pictures taken waving rainbow flags for LGBTQ+ rights for their yearbook.  The students wanted that photo to be in the yearbook. However, the Superintendent, Serita Beamon’s plan to cover up that photo was overturned by the Seminole County’s School Board.  The students had a campaign on-line #stopthestickers as they wanted their photo in its entirety. However, a compromise was sought.  Small stickers would be inserted in the yearbook that would be distributed before graduation.

Librarians are Quitting

Because Gov. DeSantis was worried about critical race theory being taught in classrooms, he has gone further and includes what teachers can and cannot say and which books they are able to use for teaching from the public school libraries.

Florida was the first state, along with Texas, to allow parents greater opportunity to review, and potentially object to school library books (HB1467).  This allows parents greater opportunity to review potentially objectionable library books they find inappropriate with the goal of removing questionable material, even if other families are okay with the content.

Librarians are quitting.  They can’t stand the vitriol from the parents who in some ways have too much say and harass them.

The parents may have a greater role, but free speech is in danger,  Governor DeSantis, in his insistence on stopping “woke,” is placing a tremendous responsibility on the parents to oversee their child’s education, religion, the whole enchilada. The teachers are told what to say; they are muzzled about sexual orientation and gender identity.   The kids aren’t receiving the stickers they deserve so they are made to feel ashamed.  The kids can’t talk about their home life that may include two Daddies or Mommies. It doesn’t seem to be a win-win situation for the parent, the teacher, and most of all, for the child.

When Your Child is Gay

When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know

For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting as well as gay and lesbian content. For the past two years, Wesley has concentrated almost exclusively on the lesbian and gay community, specifically on advising straight parents of gay children on how to be better parents and raise happy, well-adjusted adults

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