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Leon students stage walkout to protest bill over LGBTQ teachings and parent notification

Scores of students led a protest against the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill outside the House and Senate office chambers.
Sarah Mueller
Students hold signs and chant outside the House and Senate chambers against the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill.

Students from Leon County schools walked out of class today to protest the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill ahead of an expected vote in the state Senate.

The students carried signs and chanted in front of the entrances of the Florida Senate and House chambers.

Shayla Sheppard is a sophomore at Sail High School sophomore. She was dropped off at the Capitol by her mom and joined the protest alongside her girlfriend.

“I feel like they [students] should be able to express who they want to be and a lot of times the reason they do express it at school is that it’s hard at home because parents don’t understand or because they aren’t accepting of who they [kids] are.”

If the legislation were to become law, requests by students to use different names or pronouns at school would require parental notification regardless of the student’s wishes. There’s no current state requirement for schools to notify parents if a student requests that parents not be informed.

The bill also bans instruction on gender identity or sexual orientation in grades kindergarten through third, or if the instruction is not age-appropriate according to standards the state Department of Education would create. Proponents of the bill say parents have the right to know and that schools should not withhold information regarding a child’s health status. During a recent House hearing, six Republicans crossed party lines to oppose it. The Senate takes up the measure Monday.

Sarah Mueller is a journalist who has worked for media outlets in several states since 2010. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010 and worked as a print reporter covering local government and politics.