The Indianapolis Star has joined a long line of news outlets that find it easier to frame Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill than to read the three-page piece of legislation.

The only daily newspaper in Indiana’s capital, also known as IndyStar, now claims that the Indiana Legislature is preparing its own version of what the paper dubs Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, although that new law nowhere imposes such censorship.

More on that later. With the increased scrutiny from concerned parents and others in local communities following COVID-19 lockdowns and the troubling content revealed in public schools, a wave of education legislation has rocked statehouses around the country.

Parents and other education advocates began to demand new laws to protect students from disturbing content popping up in even the most conservative areas. They saw racially segregationist, sexually explicit, and other divisive content being force-fed to classrooms of young students at the request of “progressive” administrators.

In response, state legislatures have spent the past two years crafting bills that attempt to limit the ability of teachers and administrators to deviate from academic standards in order to introduce politically unnecessary, harmful, or divisive content in classrooms. 

One three-page bill that drew national attention last March doomed an entire class of education bills to the realm of the unread and misunderstood. Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, or HB 1557, was signed into law March 28 by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, amid a cacophony of protest from media outlets, advocacy groups, and teachers unions that had dubbed the legislation the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

These critics claimed that the bill would prevent the word “gay” from being uttered in schools and would erase LGBT teachers from existence in Florida’s public education system. 

President Joe Biden and the White House capitalized on the outrage by condemning the Florida bill as “hateful,” vowing to “love” and “protect” children and teachers whom the president characterized as “LGBTQI+.”

Almost comically, the Florida bill said absolutely nothing about banning the word “gay” or forbidding the passive mentioning of spouses or relationships in the classroom (as much as any teacher might mention their spouse or partner in casual discussion). The three-page bill, rather short for an education bill, required only four things: 

  1. Schools may not refuse to provide any information to parents concerning their children.
  2. Schools must notify parents before any medical procedure or data collection takes place with their children.
  3. A magistrate will be appointed to oversee disputes regarding curriculum, counseling, and medical decisions between a parent and school district.
  4. Classroom instruction with objectives regarding sexual orientation or gender identity is forbidden for students in kindergarten through third grade.

Florida’s legislation said that teachers, counselors, and administrators are not allowed to teach K-3 students about the concepts of sexual orientation or gender identity in explicit lessons. Nothing in the bill stated anything about banning words from being spoken or erasing identities from existence.

This hasn’t stopped special-interest groups or advocates who masquerade as journalists from calling HB 1557 the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, in what appears to be a blatant attempt at baiting their progressive audiences into emotional distress.

While many outlets such as Axios, Forbes, and The Associated Press attempt to cover their bias in calling HB 1557 the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by framing that moniker as a title created by critics, other local and national news outlets have thrown journalism standards to the side in a desperate attempt to gaslight their audiences.

Less than one month after the Florida Legislature passed HB 1557, The Buckeye Flame and The Columbus Dispatch levied claims that the Ohio Legislature had introduced its own “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Jim Obergefell, a Democrat running for the Ohio House, claimed that the bill would harm “LGBTQ+ students, teachers, and staff.”

But the Ohio bill flagged by Obergefell states only that no school may teach, use, or provide any curriculum or instructional materials on sexual orientation and gender identity for grades K-3. (Obergefell also was the plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage.)

This routine from progressives continued throughout much of 2022. As we draw closer to the state legislative sessions in 2023, many journalists are throwing caution to the wind again to stoke fears by dishonestly framing such stories. 

So now, in a news story, Indianapolis Star reporter Arika Herron claims that an “Indiana lawmaker said that a version of Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill was being drafted for the upcoming legislative session,” appearing to attribute the news to House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning, a Republican. 

Behning’s staff told The Daily Signal that he said no such thing.

Herron and The Indianapolis Star have not responded to The Daily Signal’s request for comment concerning disputes over the reporter’s claims in the story.

Although the Indiana State Teachers Association and the Indiana Democratic Party are overt in dishonestly portraying Florida’s bill, local affiliates of the national networks have been more careful; these outlets usually call HB 1557 the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in a headline but then slide in a sentence (usually about halfway through the story) to clarify that this negative moniker was created by critics of the measure.

But IndyStar, networks’ local affiliates, and hundreds of other news outlets around the country make no such attempt to include language from or preferred by independent, libertarian, or conservative groups.

Progressive terms such as “assault weapons,” “transgender children,” and “nonbinary” people are always given prime placement with no scare quotes—no questions asked—while conservative terms such as “pro-life” are always tossed aside in favor of “anti-abortion.”

News outlets often are openly dishonest in the way they frame bills such as the Parental Rights in Education Act, as in the case of Herron and IndyStar, but the blatant bias often speaks just as clearly of their intentions. 

By choosing to showcase “Don’t Say Gay” and other progressive jargon, legacy media trumpets its desire to gaslight and manipulate rather than share pertinent news with their audiences.

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