Students across the country are struggling to regain a sense of normalcy as they deal with the loss and emotional struggles of the pandemic. This is especially true in Florida and Texas, where there are severe teacher shortages and underfunded public school systems, we parents are concerned about the well-being and future of our children.
The governments of our states are failing to deal with these crises. Instead, some politicians are trying to advance their political careers by exploiting the misinformed concerns of some parents and pushing some children to the margins of our schools based on their race, gender or background. First, they started pushing to ban historically accurate discussions aboutUtah race and civil rights in schools, and advancing other policies that erase and stigmatize children of color. Now they are trying to ban discussion of LGBTQ+ lives and alienate LGBTQ+ children, especially transgender children, in schools by excluding them from representation.
In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed into law the extremist “Don’t Say Gay” bill, banning teachers from discussing LGBTQ+ topics or people at school and encouraging parents to sue teachers who do. They also introduced another bill that would give the state government permission to ban books in schools without considering the opinion of all parents. Meanwhile, in Texas, Governor Abbott is targeting LGBTQ+ children and families under the guise of a “parental bill of rights,” which will censor books that represent the true diversity of children’s families and identities. As two parents – one with a transgender daughter in Florida and the other with three cisgender children in Texas – we know all too well these political shenanigans and the detrimental impact they have on all young people, regardless of regardless of their gender identity.
Denying the existence of LGBTQ+ people in our schools denies the humanity of an entire group of students, and it hurts all children. We see firsthand how these bills are creating a growing sense of unease in schools and how they are forcing families, who simply want the best for their children, to live in fear. All of our children, regardless of race, family income, gender or disability, deserve to learn in a safe environment free from hate and bullying.
In our two home states, even the rainbow stickers have been the target of extremist campaigns. These efforts to erase LGBTQ+ issues or discussions of race from classrooms send a clear message to our children that it is not okay to be who you are or support who your friends are. It’s the last thing kids should hear from adults. The impact of these bills on the socio-emotional health of our communities is devastating, especially on top of the extreme stress children are facing due to the pandemic. And as parents, it’s scary how the bullies in our school systems are encouraged by the bullies in the government.
Unfortunately, we have already seen politicians using students as pawns. Throughout 2021, hardline politicians imposed sports bans that targeted transgender children with a blatant disregard for their health and well-being. These attacks on our young people are happening across the country, with over 215 anti-LGBTQ bills and over 110 anti-transgender bills already slated for consideration in the 2022 legislative sessions. These laws, which are directed by a handful of politicians who copy the work of others, fail to represent what parents and our communities want and need, and pave the way for even more harm in the future. Politicians who meddle in education, ban books or target students based on their race, gender or religion not only have a direct impact on the bullying, harassment and violence we see in our communities; it also sets a dangerous precedent for government censorship and excesses. Allowing restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of young people opens a dangerous path for future restrictions that go even further.
It’s clear that policies like these target the LGBTQ+ community, especially transgender children, but these laws hurt all children. No child benefits from learning that ignores the very existence of whole groups of people. Through exposure to different people and perspectives, our children learn to respect others and participate in a free and democratic society. This is something we should all wish for our children.
We are two mothers, with children of diverse gender identities – children who want to learn and play together in ways that recognize and celebrate their differences. They are confused that adults have such a hard time accepting gender diversity and feel the injustice it inflicts on them and their peers.
It’s time for all parents – parents of cisgender, transgender, disabled, black, brown, indigenous and white children, and more – to stand up to the handful of politicians who are trying to censor and control our schools. It’s time to get their political agendas out of our classrooms and give teachers the resources they need to support all children, including LGBTQ+ and transgender children. All of our families will be better off.