BRANDON, Fla. — Hundreds of students across Tampa Bay are protesting a bill that would restrict discussions of sexuality and gender in public schools.
Students at Brandon High School marched out to the front of campus, in opposition to a highly controversial policy, critics call the "Don't Say Gay" bill.
It was just one of many protests that happened in schools throughout the Tampa Bay Area Thursday.
“We care about students’ voices, about their rights, showing support for who they are,” said Kyli Archiquette, a senior at Brandon High School.
Officially known as the Parental Rights in Education bill, it would prohibit classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, or when it’s not age-appropriate.
Supporters said parents should be in charge of these conversations. Some students worry the legislation would make LGBTQ+ kids feel the need to hide their sexuality.
“That could lead to suicide rates in LGBTQ+ students going up in Florida. It could also lead to more harassment and bullying in general. You could lose a lot of students’ trust in schools,” said Jannet Cruz-Navarro, a senior at Brandon High School.
The legislation would allow parents to sue school districts, that they believe to be in violation. Students at Thursday’s protest said the bill would reverse the progress made toward the acceptance of LGBTQ+ people.
“We have a strong SGA here at this school, a gay-straight alliance. And it’s very likely that after this bill, we may not be able to have that club, that activity that has helped so many young queer children,” said Iris Pupo, a senior at Lakewood High School.
The “Don’t Say Gay” bill moves to the Senate floor for a vote. Gov. Ron DeSantis has signaled his support for the bill but has not said whether he would sign it.