Dolton; Illinois — Educators in Florida feel anxiety, uncertainty and confusion surrounding the new school year, as laws restricting lessons on gender identity, sexual orientation and race take effect, according to Yahoo News.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a champion of the laws, has argued that public schools should stray from pushing liberal ideology and should stick to teaching core academics. Some teachers like Rebecca McDermott, who teaches gifted classes for elementary students, said the laws will change how they approach certain situations.
In the past, she has heard students use the term “gay” to insult one another. She’d typically intervene and ask students to reflect on what the term meant.
“A lot of times they didn’t know,” said McDermott, who is gay and raising two children with her wife. “It’s just something they’ve heard.”
Now, she wonders if it's best to steer clear of the issue. She has practiced what she might say to students this year: “We’re not here to talk about that. We are here to learn. Let’s move on.”
Sheryl Posey, a school psychologist in the Orlando area, finds new requirements for school employees to notify parents if a student came out as gay to be a “huge ethical conundrum.”
“I’m really at a loss, honestly,” Posey said. “It feels very much like trying to walk a tightrope, between law and ethics.”
Posey added, “I want to partner with parents.” But if a student is not ready to come out, she is bound by professional ethics requiring confidentiality unless a student is at risk to themselves or others. She’s not sure what she would do if she was required to out a student.
Kathryn Clark, an English teacher in St. Johns County, teaches classics like “The Great Gatsby” and will also have to walk a thin line.
“Gatsby is about the futility of the American dream,” said Clark. “If I talk about the futility of the American dream, is that going to be indoctrinating them? Am I selling them on this anti-American idea?”