Respect Equality

Education secretary calls Florida bill ‘hateful,’ urges lawmakers to protect students

(Joshua Robert/Getty Images)

Story at a glance

  • Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Tuesday said Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill is “hateful” and said lawmakers in Florida were ignoring real issues like pandemic recovery by spending their time and resources passing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
  • Cardona noted that the Education Department prevents schools that receive federal funding from discriminating against students or staff based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • On Twitter, White House press secretary Jen Psaki backed Cardona’s comments and said President Biden and his administration is committed to standing with “LGBTQI+ students everywhere.”

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Tuesday called Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill “hateful” and accused states legislators of ignoring issues such as pandemic recovery by taking up anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

“Parents across the country are looking to national, state, and district leaders to support our nation’s students, help them recover from the pandemic, and provide them the academic and mental health supports they need. Instead, leaders in Florida are prioritizing hateful bills that hurt some of the students most in need,” Cardona said in a statement.

He noted that existing Education Department policy prevents schools that receive federal funding from discriminating against students or staff based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The Department of Education has made clear that all schools receiving federal funding must follow federal civil rights law, including Title IX’s protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” he said. “We stand with our LGBTQ+ students in Florida and across the country, and urge Florida leaders to make sure all their students are protected and supported.”


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Cardona was joined by other government officials in condemning the bill, including White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who wrote in a tweet that President Biden and his administration “stand with LGBTQI+ students everywhere, including in Florida where they have passed hateful legislation targeting vulnerable students.”

Under the bill, officially titled the Parental Rights in Education bill, the ability of primary school teachers in Florida to speak to their students about sexual orientation or gender identity would be heavily restricted beginning this summer. Public school teachers of all grade levels would be prohibited from engaging in instruction that is “not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”

The bill was passed Tuesday by the state Senate in a vote largely along party lines and now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis for either a signature or a veto.

The legislation’s passage on Tuesday was also immediately denounced by LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, who accused state politicians of demonizing LGBTQ+ people to ignite their base and score political points.

“The Florida state legislature is playing a dangerous political game with the health and safety of LGBTQ+ kids,” Cathryn M. Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement following the vote. “Discriminatory pieces of legislation like the ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ bill don’t solve any critical issues in Florida. Instead, these bills shamefully attack and endanger LGBTQ+ students who are just trying to get a quality education, whom the state has an obligation to treat fairly and protect.”

Amit Paley, the CEO and executive director of the Trevor Project, said the bill will worsen the stigma against the LGBTQ+ community, especially among children, who already face higher risk for bullying, depression and suicide.

“Every LGBTQ young person deserves to attend a school that provides an inclusive, affirmative environment — not one that aims to erase their existence,” he said.


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