On March 28, 2022, the Florida Legislature passed HB 1557, the “Parental Rights in Education” Act (HB 1557), also dubbed the Don’t Say Gay bill. This bill prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI) before the 4th grade and requires such instruction to be “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” thereafter. This bill was signed into law on July 1, 2022, functionally taking effect during the following academic year (i.e., August/September 2022). In May 2023, limitations to classroom instruction related to SOGI were expanded to K-12 public schooling.Based on a survey of 106 parents in Florida surveyed one year after HB 1557 was passed, and six months into the 2022-2023 school year (i.e., March 2023), this study represents a first look at how a diverse group of parents in the state feel about and perceive the impact of the law. It also explores how they feel about the proposed expansion of the law, such that classroom instruction on SOGI is prohibited through 8th grade. Findings reveal stark differences in how parents respond to and feel about the law based on partisan affiliation, with Democrats and Independents being much less likely to agree with the law and its expansion than Republicans. Democrats and Independents are also more likely to want to move out of Florida, compared to Republicans. Additionally, Floridians who have LGBTQ friends or family members are more likely to disagree with the law.
Beliefs About the Law
- One-third of participants disagreed with the original Parental Rights in Education Act and 46% disagreed with the expansion of the Act to K-12 schooling.
- Those who disagreed with the Act emphasized their belief that children needed to learn about gender and sexuality and all types of people. They also voiced concern about a push towards fascism within their state and government overreach.
- Participants who were against the Act largely agreed with the statement that it provoked hostility against the LGBTQ community. For example, 90% of those who were against the Act felt that it provoked hostility compared to 17% of those who supported it.
- Almost half of participants agreed with the original Parental Rights in Education Act and 43% agreed with the expansion of the Act.
- Participants who agreed with the Act generally agreed with the statement that it protected parents’ rights and empowered parents, with most also feeling that it protected children’s rights and well-being. For example, 68% of those who agreed with the Act felt that it protected parents’ rights, compared to 5% of those who disagreed with it.
- Participants who agreed with the Act voiced their belief that children shouldn’t be exposed to sexuality- or gender-related information because they were susceptible to being influenced. In addition, they often indicated a belief that LGBTQ identities were wrong or immoral.
- 10% of participants expressed neutral or mixed feelings about the Parental Rights in Education Act, and similarly, 11% voiced neutral or mixed feelings about the expansion of the Act. Participants who felt neutrally about the Act typically indicated that they did not feel that it applied to their situation and/or they did not have strong opinions about it. Those who indicated more mixed feelings often said that they agreed with it for younger children but not older children.
Factors Associated with Disagreement or Agreement
- Two-thirds of Democrats and more than half of Independents disagreed with the Act, compared to about 10% of Republicans. Support for the expansion of the Act diminished among Democrats and Independents: 80% of Democrats and 60% of Independents did not approve of its expansion to older children. Republicans’ views, on the other hand, were consistent across developmental contexts, with almost 90% approving of both the original Act and its expansion.
- Across all parents, those with a college education or higher were significantly less likely to agree with the Act than those with less than a bachelor’s degree. And, across all parents, those with LGBTQ friends and LGBTQ family members were significantly less likely to agree with the Act than those without LGBTQ family or friends.
Impact of the Law
- 19% of participants described observing the removal of books from school libraries and classrooms, and 13% observed the removal of signifiers of LGBTQ inclusivity such as Safe Space stickers.
- 12% of participants said that their children had expressed fear, anxiety, or avoidance of school related to the Act, and 9% expressed fears about the future related to living in Florida.
- 16% of participants said that they were more involved in their children’s school (e.g., to make sure their voice was heard) since the passing of the Parental Rights in Education Act.
- 11% of participants had participated in advocacy or activism against the Parental Rights in Education legislation, while 5% had participated in advocacy or activism in support of it.
- 40% of the sample said they would like to move out of Florida (20% very much so, and 19% somewhat). An additional 15% felt mixed about moving, with 45% not wishing to move. Almost 11% said they were very likely to move in the next two years, with an additional 6% saying that this was somewhat likely. Barriers to leaving included jobs, extended family, and the hassle of moving.