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Mental Health Experts Discuss Potential Risks Tied To Passing of 'Don't Say Gay' Bill

TAMPA BAY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - Mental health providers are chiming in after the Parental Rights in Education bill, also being referred to by activists as the so called 'Don't Say Gay' bill, was passed.

Now one signature away from becoming law in the state of Florida, that bill would limit what classrooms can teach about sexual orientation and gender identity.

"Teachers are our security guards, they're counselors, sometimes the only place a student gets a meal," said Annie Filkowski who opposes bill. The fiercely-debated bill sparked protests and walkouts before being passed Tuesday by the State Senate and House now headed for Governor DeSantis' desk.

"There's the intended impact of the legislation and then there's what ends up happening," said Yolanda Harper, LCSW with Harper Therapy. Local mental health experts are weighing in on potential impacts that could stem from the legislation. "Students and teens who are in the LGBTQ+ population have even increased metal health concerns and suicide risk. That's not going to change anytime soon until we start doing things differently," said Harper.

"There's these young people coming up talking about how they attempted suicide because of how they were treated," said Filkowski. And those concerns are growing as teachers' roles are also taken into account.

"Educators are in the field because they care about kids and now we're asking them to not care about kids," said Harper.

In response, the U.S. Department of Education issued a statement on its website accusing Florida leaders of "prioritizing hateful bills that hurt some of the students most in need."

"I think my biggest concern is how bad does it need to get for our youth and our teens before we really, truly start paying attention to their mental and emotional well-being," said Harper.

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