Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis has taken steps to expand a law that prohibits public schools from teaching about sexual education and gender identity.
DeSantis seeking to apply the rule to all grades
The proposed extension would apply to all grades, including high school seniors. Violators of the law, which critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay,” could face suspension or the loss of their teaching licenses.
The rule was put forth by the state Department of Education, which is led by appointees of Governor DeSantis, and is expected to be voted on by the Board of Education next month.
Unlike the original law, which only applied to kindergarten through third grade, this extension does not require legislative approval to take effect, as per local media reports.
The law also kicked off an intense feud between Florida and Disney, one of the state’s largest employers and political donors. The entertainment giant publicly opposed the law and said it would pause political donations in the state.
The change to the rule would ban all lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity from grades 4 to 12 – unless required by existing state standards or as part of reproductive health instruction, which students would not be obliged to take.
Governor DeSantis, a Republican who won re-election last year and is considered a potential presidential candidate in 2024, has made cultural issues a priority. He has positioned himself as an antidote to “liberal indoctrination” by Democrats.
Parents are responsible for teaching their kids – not schools
Proponents of the law argue that it protects children from inappropriate content in schools and that parents, not teachers, should be responsible for discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity with their children.
Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. tweeted, “Students should be spending their time in school learning core academic subjects, not being force-fed radical gender and sexual ideology.”
Critics point out that the language within the law is vague, making it difficult to define what constitutes “age-appropriate or developmentally-appropriate” LGBT-related content. There are concerns that teachers may avoid discussing topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity altogether due to fear of facing penalties.
If approved, the expansion of the law could have significant implications for public schools in Florida, with educators grappling with potential consequences.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre condemned the new proposal saying, “It’s wrong, it’s completely, utterly wrong,” and called it “part of a disturbing and dangerous trend that we’re seeing across the nation” of targeting LGBTQ people. Meanwhile, President Biden called it “hateful.”
Republicans in Florida argue that the legislature’s effort to expand the law is not meant to go after LGBTQ youth but to ensure parents know what is taught to their children.
“This bill promotes parental rights, transparency, and state standards in Florida schools. It requires that lessons for Florida’s students are age-appropriate, focused on education, and free from sexualization and indoctrination,” state Representative Adam Anderson said.
As the Board of Education prepares to vote on the proposed rule, the debate surrounding the “Don’t Say Gay” law continues to unfold in Florida.
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