Florida classrooms are changing after “Don’t Say Gay”

The next day I found myself a group of Booker High students and graduates in another Starbucks filled with soccer moms and college kids typing on laptops. When I walked in, Anthony Frisbee, a 2021 Booker High graduate, was sitting at the end of a long table across from the barista; Seniors Nora Mitchell and Helen Mosquera came running in 10 minutes later, after several text messages apologizing for being late.

Mitchell, who founded the social justice group Sarasota Students for Justice in 2020, was full of energy, evident even behind her face mask. “Don’t Say Gay” has “allowed the Sarasota County School Board to create new policies that are, for lack of better words, extremely repressive within our school,” Mitchell said. She is particularly upset by the possibility that a teacher may have to reveal a student to her parent or guardian and that teachers may have to use a student’s birth name or pronouns if their parents do not approve of their gender identity.

Frisbee, who is gay, said he had seen the effects of “Don’t Say Gay” when he visited his alma mater a month earlier. “I understand what it feels like to be denied your identity because of your sexual orientation, and it’s painful.”

Mosquera, who is in his fourth year at Booker, said he had also seen the consequences firsthand. “You can see them just start crying about how long the process is taking. [to get the name change] … It is very difficult for so many students, because they are constantly being denied who they really are,” he said. “It used to just be, ‘Hey, I want to go by so-and-so, these are my pronouns,’ and it will automatically be respected.”

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Mitchell said that he had spoken with friends and teachers, including Foreman, just before “Don’t Say Gay” was announced. “There was certainly a lot of concern because I’m not with my mom,” she said. She fears that due to the law, other students will not be able to leave in a supportive environment. “The only place I felt comfortable coming out was at school,” she said. “My biggest fear when the law was initially announced was, Are they going to rat me out because I already shared?

Thousands of students go to their teachers every year. A survey 2012 by the Human Rights Campaign of 10,000 LGBT teens found that 38% told their teachers. Since a 2020 UCLA fact sheet estimated that there are just under 2 million LGBT teens In the United States, hundreds of thousands of teens may have talked to their teachers. LGBTQ students often fear that if they talk to their parents they will be ridiculed, sent to conversion therapy, or kicked out of the house. And these are not idle concerns. A Trevor project 2021 to study found that 14% of LGBTQ youth surveyed had reported “sleeping away from their parents or caregivers because they had been kicked out or abandoned.” LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness or housing instability are more likely than their straight cisgender counterparts to become depressed, self-harm, and die by suicide.

Since March, administrators at the Booker School have not only called on teachers and students to remove rainbow-themed images, but have also attacked posters with clenched fists and symbols associated with Black Lives Matter or LGBTQ rights. . “The comparisons with totalitarianism are very evident. [Extremist elements of the GOP] they ban books, they ban ideas, they ban symbols,” Frisbee said. Two banners Mitchell had created for his school’s clubs—one, created for Black History Month, read “Black Minds Matter,” and the other featured pride flags and the slogan “We’re all welcome here”—were removed. because they were “too important”. politics,” Mitchell said. “[School administrators] he did not return them to me. They threw them. … [Government officials] they want the school to feel unsafe, and they want the schools to be spaces where they can imprint their own values ​​of heterosexuality of whiteness. They want to reaffirm those values.”

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Sarasota spokesman Maniglia denied that this event took place.

Frisbee, Mosquera and Mitchell believe that Booker High is responding to “Don’t Say Gay” in a more extreme way than other schools. “I visited a different high school in Sarasota County. They still had their pride flags up high,” Mosquera said. I was surprised to see that there is so much bias in one of the schools that is more racially diverse and more in the LGBTQIA plus community.”