Updated: Jul 29
On April 28th, 2022, Pride Alliance had its first walkout along with other schools in the greater CT area in protest of the Don’t Say Gay bill that had passed in Florida. It was passed on March 8th with a vote 22-17 stating that “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” This broad terminology of what an “age-appropriate” manner the school open to a lawsuit if they so much as have a book in their library depicting two gay parents. It infringes on freedom of speech and instills an undercurrent of aversion, repugnance, and fear around the topic of LGBTQ+. Ron DeSantis, the Governor of Florida, was quoted at a press conference stating that teaching kindergarten-age kids that "they can be whatever they want to be" was "inappropriate" for children. In March, a group of parents banded together and sent a letter demanding consequences be issued to a teacher that had mentioned he would be out for a few days to his class because he was getting married…to a man. Robert Thollander teaches sixth grade, so not in the jurisdiction of this bill yet many parents felt it was the just thing to do to band together and try to punish him for mentioning his marriage in class when asked. Luckily, the school did not discipline him and defended him with a letter of their own, but what would’ve happened if Mr.Thollander had taught third grade? His teaching career of 11 years would’ve been in jeopardy and possibly could’ve been lost seeing how many parents already feel entitled to punishing even teachers who are even remotely open about being gay.
Fortunately, many teachers have been using the incredibly broad language of the bill to their advantage. The bill says there can be no instruction on sexuality/gender or discussion of such in an inappropriate manner. Including heterosexuality. Many teachers have banded together and taken out books from their libraries that portray a husband and wife since this is an expression of sexuality. Many teachers have switched to using the gender-neutral Mx. instead of Mr. or Mrs. so as not to impose such gendered terms. Many other steps have been taken to point out the hypocrisy of this bill as well as to prevent the creation of more like it.
At the Pride Alliance walkout, we had attendees sign petitions pushing for the installment of the Equality Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act. The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and protect LGBT+ members, along with other minorities from discrimination. The Safe Schools act (Which amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to require school districts in states that receive ESEA funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment including on the basis of gender and sexuality as well as many other uncontrollable factors. We were able to get roughly 60 signatures and even had an openly queer admnistrator from Quinnipiac speak out our protest. All around, our protest was a campus success. We can only hope that our efforts, and the efforts of all the protests around the country, will bring safety and respect to the humans apart of the LGBTQ+ community.