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Florida Students Participate in Massive Walkout Protesting 'Don't Say Gay' bill

TAMPA BAY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - "They were fearless which was beautiful," said Annie Filkowski referencing Florida high school students. She was one of many to witness protests across the state opposing House Bill 1557 and Senate Bill 1834, also being called the "Don't Say Gay" bill by critics. The legislation aims to ban classroom discussions related to sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.

"My wife texted me - who was at home in Orlando - a bunch of videos and pictures and was like, 'you have to go to the fourth floor and see what's happening," said Filkowski who opposes the bill. Thursday, she watched as high school students across Florida walked out of their classrooms to make a statement to lawmakers. "I teared up because, being a queer person in the capital and to see these kids loud and proud, it made me excited," she said. "I know, personally, I came out to a guidance counselor before I was able to [tell] my parents."

Thus far, it has passed the State House and the Senate Appropriations Committee. It's now set to go to a full floor senate vote Tuesday followed by Governor DeSantis' desk if passed.

"How many parents want their kindergarteners to have transgenderism or something injected into classroom instruction," said Governor Ron DeSantis during a press conference Friday, signaling his continued support for the bill. "And I think that's justifiable. I think it's inappropriate to be injecting those matters – like a transgenderism – into a kindergarten classroom. At the same time, if you oppose that, you have a responsibility to be honest about it."

Senator Sennis Baxley, who also supports the bill, tells CW44 news that he "feels confident that we have the necessary support in the Senate to pass this legislation, but nothing is ever taken for granted and conversations will continue to take place.

We've seen a nation-wide movement on the issue of parental rights, and this bill follows along that same path by empowering parents to take responsibility for their children. Parental rights do not stop at the classroom door. These kids belong to families, they are not wards of the state, and parents should get to decide what is age appropriate content for their children."

But those opposing the bill say it could change the trajectory of many students' choice to talk about those same things, publicly.

"It's just trampling on a really sacred relationship between teachers and students," said Filkowski.

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