▶ Watch Video: Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill sparks debate over LGBTQ rights for students, parents

Todd and Jeff Delmay say they believe their 12-year-old son Blake’s public school in Hollywood, Florida has been a welcoming place. But they fear that may soon change as HB 1557, what critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, moves to the Florida Senate for further debate.  

“If children are not feeling that they are accepted or who they are and the family they come from isn’t accepted, it will have an impact on them,” Todd Delmay told CBS News’ Manuel Bojorquez.

The Republican-backed Parental Rights in Education bill states that “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3.” Parents could sue school districts for violations.  

Florida’s House of Representatives passed the bill on Thursday. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has also signaled his support of the bill. 

Republican State Representative Joe Harding sponsored the bill. He told Bojorquez that he wants core education topics to be the focus in classrooms. 

“We want the focus to be on those basic, fundamental things. The reading, the writing, the math. And when discussions come up as a dad of four kids, children ask questions. Discussions are going to come up. We can’t ban a conversation. We can’t ban a discussion. That’s not what we’re doing,” Harding said. 

But critics say just the threat of lawsuits could have a chilling effect on those discussions and language in the bill banning those lessons when “not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards” could apply to any grade. 

“So, it applies to K through 12 classrooms, and it grants the right for any parent who believes that a conversation is happening about our families to sue a school district. It’s an aggressive attack,” Equality Florida’s Senior Political Director Joe Saunders said. 

Nationwide, there are 18 similar bills moving through nine state legislatures. The advocacy group, The Trevor Project, has denounced them and said its research shows LGBTQ students who learned about LGBTQ issues or people at school had 23% lower odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. 

Harding said the bill wouldn’t make schools any less safe for LGBTQ students. 

“I think the schools are a safe place, and they need to continue to be a safe place,” he said. “This doesn’t change a school being a safe place.” 

17-year-old Andrew Triolo said even without the bill, not all schools are safe for people like him. He is transgender and has been bullied or harassed at every public school he’s attended. He recently spoke out against the bill at the State Capitol and said he believes that schools help students navigate through emotional times.  

“I think that if I would have had the language to express how I felt about my gender at a younger age, it would have saved me a lot of internal struggle and depression,” he said.