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Florida students are getting screwed over “Don’t Say Gay” law — now they’re fighting back

By now it’s clear that Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law by critics, is impacting students in ways far beyond its originally stated purpose.

This week a group of Florida teens and their families, along with LGBTQ advocacy groups, filed a lawsuit against the new restrictions, which prevent discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom.

When the bill was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis (above) in March, proponents claimed its purpose was to limit early sex education in grades K-3. But the legislation also contained vague language about banning LGBTQ-themed conversations deemed “not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” Critics feared a door would open for varying interpretations that would directly harm LGBTQ students in all grades.

Related: Florida high school enacts insane new LGBTQ policy and everyone’s thinking the same thing

That door subsequently burst open, with some schools forcing teachers to remove signage indicating a classroom is a “safe space” for LGBTQ students, remove photographs of their same-sex spouses, and even out students to their peers’ parents.

The law also allows parents to sue school districts they believe are violation of the measure.

Three civil rights groups — Lambda Legal, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Southern Legal Counsel — are suing on behalf of two families, Florida teen activist Will Larkins, and LGBTQ center association CenterLink.

The suit condemns the law’s “vigilante enforcement mechanism,” and its “intentionally vague and sweeping scope, [inviting] parents who oppose any acknowledgement whatsoever of the existence of LGBTQ+ people to sue, resulting in schools acting aggressively to silence students, parents, and school personnel.”

It named four county school boards — Orange, Indian River, Duval and Palm Beach — as defendants.

Related: Florida teen goes viral educating history teacher on Stonewall. Now the school is “investigating.”

Larkins, for instance, gave their history class a presentation on Stonewall’s significance after they discovered it would not be included in a curriculum on U.S. history of the ’60s and ’70s. Afterwards, they reported the school was “investigating me about this piece because my history teacher doesn’t like it.”

Lamda Legal said that, “after Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ law was passed, Plaintiff Will Larkins (he/they) was moved to another history class… They also saw students stomp on pride flags during a student-led walkout in opposition to this law.”

Another plaintiff — a gay, married couple — have children in the third and fourth grades. After coming back to school from summer vacation, the kids were excited to share what they’d done during the time off. Instead, the couple had to tell their kids not to mention their celebration of Pride.

The suit is the second filed against the law. In March, Lawyers with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the firm of Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP sued on behalf of Equality Florida and Family Equality as well as students, parents, and a teacher.