Can Bolles “say gay”?

Dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill, HB1557 forbids any lessons revolving around sexual orientation from kindergarten to third grade and demands that curriculum in other grades be “age appropriate and developmentally appropriate,” according to “Understanding Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill” on FindLaw.com.

Due to the recent advancement of the Parental Rights in Education Bill in state legislature, questions of to the extent private schools’ operations revolve around state law have risen.

But, does this mean the same rules apply to private schools in the state of Florida? Does HB1557 apply to us?

In basic terms, no. No it doesn’t.

When asked about an independent school’s obligation to change curriculum based on legislation, Head of School, Mr. Hodges said, “As an independent school, we are not obligated to change our curriculum. We do, however, pay close attention to all legislation and consider it closely.”

However there aren’t laws preventing discrimination against LGBTQIA+ students. Title IX is part of the Civil Rights Act and prevents discrimination based on sex, but according to Chalkbeat.org, it applies at private schools if they accept even a fraction of state funding, “Title IX’s nondiscrimination rules do apply. But a change in interpretation means the law offers fewer protections to transgender students than it has in the past.”

As an independent school, we are not obligated to change our curriculum.”

— Mr. Hodges

According to Chalkbeat.org, under the Obama administration, the interpretation of Title IX included gender identity as well as biological gender while under the Trump administration, it was restricted to solely biological gender.

State governments do control private schools to an extent, because of a “high responsibility for education of its citizens, [a State] may impose reasonable regulations for the control and duration of basic education.” Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 213 (1972). See also Board of Ed. of Cent. Sch. Dist. No.1 v. Allen, 392 U.S. 236, 246-247 (1968), according to privateschoolreview.com.

For example, the course “Life Management” is a state requirement, but other bills that were signed into law concerning CPR training for 9th and 11th graders as well as a course on financial literacy do not impact private schools.

While, HB1557 may not legally impact the school and its curriculum it socially impacts its students and teachers. The passing of this bill jeopardizes safe space created for students in schools and it takes us many steps back instead of the needed steps forward.

Secretary and Social Media Manager of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) Zoe Lieb commented on the school environment after the advancement of the bill, “I have noticed a lot of students in the club are more nervous around teachers,” they continued to discuss the apprehension students have in discussing topics, “it’s like a lot of people are afraid of who might overhear.”

I have noticed a lot of students in the club are more nervous around teachers… It’s like a lot of people are afraid of who might overhear.”

— Zoe Lieb '23

They said that it’s always been hard to have the stereotypical teenage conversations talking about liking someone, when others don’t consider your love interest “normal,” but now, “I wouldn’t even try to bring it up.”

President of the GSA Campbell Ford said he’s “worried for our club and members.” He has researched the bill extensively and is concerned about its wording, “given there is no accordance and the vagueness of this bill, this allows the bill to be interpreted, which means this could potentially affect any school.”

When asked how he would’ve liked administration to respond, Ford said, “I would like the school to say that they will protect the right to discuss these topics,” and “ensure that the GSA will not be abolished.”