PEN America issued the following statement in response to passage by the Florida Senate Education Committee of a bill that would bar school districts from encouraging classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity. The statement was made by CEO Suzanne Nossel:

“This vindictive ban is a brazen attempt to halt progress toward a more inclusive society. Trying to force discussions of LGBTQ identity into the classroom closet is punitive and sends a disturbing and dangerous message that some voices should be silenced, some people erased. It has the potential to do real harm to LGBTQ students and to hard-won efforts to build more tolerant, inclusive educational spaces. This bill is a double whammy in that it so clearly flouts the First Amendment prohibition on viewpoint-based restrictions on speech, and the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause. Educators are experts at how to tailor complex subjects in age-appropriate ways, and students have every right to see a range of voices and identities–including those that may reflect or be different from their own–in what they learn and read.” 

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, communications and media consultant, STrimel@PEN.org