(MIAMI)— A bill under consideration by Florida lawmakers that would prohibit flags in public schools and universities that express “political viewpoints” would chill free expression in K-12 schools and universities, PEN America said today. The bill, HB 901, explicitly cites “racial, [or] sexual orientation and gender” viewpoints within the list of prohibitions alongside “politically partisan” and “political ideology” viewpoints.

PEN America wrote a letter to the Legislature expressing the threat such a bill poses for free expression in public schools.

In response to the bill, Katie Blankenship, director of PEN America Florida, said: “This vague bill will chill personal and political expression in our K-12 schools and universities,” said Blankenship. “Designating all flags that reflect racial, gender, and sexual orientation as expressing “political viewpoints” is a dangerous leap. Identity is not inherently political. This vague language risks overapplication and misuse, and will likely be used to suppress symbolic expression of LGBTQ+ and racial identities. The bill’s conflation of K-12 schools and higher education institutions is also particularly concerning, as First Amendment jurisprudence differs in these contexts.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057