Sarasota County School District, a Florida district serving more than 42,000 students, has introduced new rules that require schools, teachers and educational staff to notify parents if they do not identify as straight or request the usage of a different name or set of pronouns.
They have outlined clear guidelines which state that if a student makes a request of school staff in terms of their pronouns, name or revealing their sexuality the staff member is legally required to notify administration and the school counsellor who will tell their parents who can refuse or give the school consent to subscribe to these changes.
The laws have created mass uproar with many educators themselves worried that they may contribute to a student’s mental distress and potentially even expose them to forms of abuse in their home environment. Many teachers revealed they have transgender on non-binary students who utilise varied names and pronouns who will now be unable to confide or receive support from their teachers unless they are out at home.
Users on the internet have scorned the new laws with many questioning the law’s usefulness in light of increasing gun violence in the USA, much of which targets school children. Others have shared concern for the children’s safety, since the law places many students at the risk of being sent away from their homes and abuse.
The Parental Rights in Education Act is above all a huge invasion of privacy for these students. An individual’s form of gender identity or sexuality is something they should feel comfortable enough to reveal to certain people. With ‘coming out’ still often being a huge part of a non-heteronormative individual’s life, this law presents itself as a loss of agency and choice for these children.
While the law does state that such information may be withheld if it is believed that disclosure may subject a child to ‘abuse, abandonment and neglect’, given the state’s generally conservative laws, many believe this clause is not enough to protect children.
This law will have a tragic impact in that students no longer have the choice to freely disclose such information in their places of education. Teachers have often been viewed as sources of comfort and individuals students can go to for advice and support for both educational and personal issues. With this new law, that can no longer be the case. Overall, it acts as a means of suppressing these identities and denies children of basic personal freedoms.
Edited By: Ayona Mitra
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