A Florida kindergarten teacher said he is worried he could be sued for having honest conversations in the classroom under the state’s new “Don’t Say Gay” law, in an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday.
Cory Bernaert said the bill could prevent him from even mentioning his partner in class, adding that children are curious and discussions help foster community in schools.
“It scares me to death that I’m not going to be able to have these conversations with my children,” he said. “I don’t want to have to hide that my partner and I went paddle boarding this weekend.”
Apart from educators, Bernaert said the bill could also have an effect on what children themselves can discuss about their home life, making note of a student with two mothers.
“If they go to her and ask her about her two moms and she doesn’t know what to say, they’re going to come to me and ask me,” Bernaert told MSNBC. “So what do I do?”
Students across the state have been protesting against the bill over the course of this month.
Disney, which was criticized for its initial reluctance to criticize the law, also issued a statement Monday pledging to support efforts to get the bill repealed.
“Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law,” the statement reads.
The new law signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) — who Republicans believe could run for president in 2024 — Monday states that classes “by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
It also allows parents to sue school districts to enforce it.
Even though the text of the bill doesn’t explicitly spell out which types of discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity are covered or deemed “age appropriate,” educators are still concerned they could face legal action.
“I am afraid for myself, my colleagues and my students,” Bernaert said.