WASHINGTON, March 28, 2022—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, AFT Executive Vice President Evelyn DeJesus and California Federation of Teachers President and AFT LGBTQIA+ Task Force Chair Jeff Freitas issued the following remarks after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a measure into law, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay,” that bars educators from discussing sexual orientation with young students. Similar legislation has been introduced in Georgia, and more than half of the states in the country have introduced legislation to influence school policy around LGBTQIA+ issues.
Weingarten said: “This bill—and all the ones like it—single out certain kids and families for derision and denigration. It is just wrong. Its intent is to divide our communities and make political hay, but it hurts children, hurts families and makes it hard for teachers to do their jobs. Make no mistake, this bill will have devastating real-world consequences—especially for LGBTQIA+ youth who already experience higher rates of bullying and suicide. And for teachers and school staff who work tirelessly to support and care for their students, this bill is just another gross political attack on their professionalism.
“Gov. DeSantis often speaks of freedom, but it turns out he’s only interested in the freedom of folks who agree with him politically. After two years of disruption, lawmakers should be providing more support for their students, instead of shaming LGBTQIA+ people back into the closet by policing their identity or stopping kids from talking about their same-sex parents. This assault on our children and on our teachers needs to end. Our organization will continue to work with parents, educators and their students to ensure our schools are safe and welcoming environments for all.”
DeJesus said: “Every young person deserves a school that welcomes them as they are. They deserve an inclusive and accepting learning environment to dream dreams and reach their full potential. What this legislation, and all of the ones like it, does is the exact opposite: It tells children that their existence should be silenced, and it punishes teachers for supporting the whole child. This is not the world we should be living in. Let this be a call for all historically oppressed communities to stand with our LGBTQIA+ family at this time—our struggle is one. We are in this fight together.”
Freitas said: “I want every LGBTQIA+ child to know—you are enough, you are loved and your existence matters. LGBTQIA+ students and educators deserve to know that schools will be safe spaces for them, and that they are welcome in every school and classroom. We, the AFT, stand with them to achieve this. LGBTQIA+ youth already face higher risks for bullying, depression and suicide, and LGBTQIA+ educators have been targeted by conservative groups in their districts, forcing many to leave the profession. How about instead of coming up with purposefully vague bills that only harm our students and educators, legislators focus more on supporting inclusive and tolerant education? Until then, we will continue to fight for welcoming, safe and supportive schools; in other words, the education our children deserve and the workplaces our educators need.”
The American Federation of Teachers is a union of 1.7 million professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their families and our communities. We are committed to advancing these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through the work our members do.www.aft.org