Washington, DC, March 18, 2022 – The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) is alarmed at the “Parental Rights in Education” act, also known as “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill recently passed in Florida. This new law blocks teachers and educators from talking about LGBTQ+ issues and undermines existing protections for LGBTQ+ youth and families in schools.
Dr. Warren Ng, AACAP president said, “In the midst of a national crisis on youth mental health, it’s unconscionable to target and harm LGBTQ+ youth and families. LGBTQ+ youth during the pandemic have suffered, with 42% of LGBTQ youth, and over half of transgender and nonbinary youth, seriously considering attempting suicide in the past year.” Dr. Ng added, “As child and adolescent psychiatrists, we are the physician experts and advocates for children’s mental health, and we will continue to support our LGBTQ+ youth and condemn all harmful legislation and actions. Having a safe learning environment that supports healthy development is not a privilege, but a right for all youth.”
AACAP opposes policies that stigmatize normal and healthy expressions of sexual and gender identity. Sexual and gender identification begin at an early age and are formed through inquiry, exploration, and validation. Differences in sexual orientations and gender identifications are part of healthy physical, social, and emotional developmental processes. This bill exacerbates the stigma that many LGBTQ+ youth already experience and paves the way for other groups to similarly be targeted.
Youth spend much of their time in school with peers and adult teacher caregivers, where education policies should promote safe and supportive environments for learning and for the development of their identities, including sexuality and gender. This law grossly undermines the basic tenets of education policy by denying students access to and support from some of the most important and influential adults in their lives. This regressive approach to education and development will have devastating consequences for all, especially for LGBTQ+ youth and families.
Harmful legislation like the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill not only endangers the LGBTQ+ community, but it also jeopardizes their ability to reach their full potential. This action sends a dangerous message that certain voices don’t deserve to be heard. Additionally, this bill is a big step backwards for all marginalized communities, their families, and for the appreciation and understanding of diversity.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry promotes the healthy development of children, adolescents, and families through advocacy, education, and research. Child and adolescent psychiatrists are the leading physician authority on children’s mental health. For more information, please visit www.aacap.org