Critics say the law uses “parental rights” as an excuse to marginalize LGBTQ people. On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Florida Senate passed a bill banning discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary grades nearly two weeks after the controversial bill passed the Florida House.
The whole movie to the legislature comes after weeks of intense opposition from National Democrats, Florida students, LGBTQ supporters and the White House. The law, dubbed the Parental Rights in Education Act, advocates greater parental control over children’s education in public schools. The bill would allow parents to sue school districts that challenge the legislation.
Dubbed the Don’t Say Gay Bill by its opponents, the law bans discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten classes through third grade, which activists say further marginalizes them. A brief provision included in both the House and Senate versions of the bill brought the legislation to national attention earlier this year as Florida continues to consolidate as the epicentre of a growing battle over parental involvement in “education.”
Last month, President Joe Biden took the rare executive step of denouncing the law as “hateful” while vowing to continue fighting for queer students. But while opposition to the bill has reached rare national enthusiasm for the legislation across the state, the bill’s supporters swear it is meant to protect young children.
What exactly will this bill do?
The answer is not entirely clear. The 30-word measure that generated the most controversy is written in particularly vague language.
“A school district may not encourage in-class discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in elementary grades or in a manner that is inappropriate for the age or developmental level of students,” the bill states. The text, however, does not define or explain which language on these topics would be considered “age-appropriate” or “development-appropriate”.
The bill’s sponsors, Representative Joe Harding and Senator Dennis Baxley, said the provision is a temporary measure for school districts that implement curricula to educate children about gender and sexual orientation before they are old enough to understand it.
But while the bill and its supporters provide that the provision applies directly at elementary levels, which include grades up to 3rd, opponents fear that the ambiguity in the language could mean the measures will eventually use to high school students as well, the agency said. The authors of the bill said that informal conversations between students and teachers about gender and sexuality and school clubs would not be prohibited by law.
But LGBTQ rights groups and advocates say the legislation addresses a problem that doesn’t exist. Nadine Smith, chief executive of Equality Florida, told the Times that no “developmentally inappropriate” curriculum is taught in elementary grades that focuses on sexual orientation or gender identity.
‘Parental rights in education’ or ‘Don’t speak gay? Florida has become a hotspot for an increasingly conservative focus on parents’ educational rights in recent years.
Under the leadership of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, the state has proposed and approved several measures to increase parental investment in the classroom.
This legislation cements Florida as a hotspot for parental rights.
The national battle to wear masks during the pandemic in schools went viral in Florida when DeSantis banned the mandatory wearing of masks in public schools just days before the start of the 2021/2022 school year.
When school districts and educators responded, the governor threatened to withhold the salaries of school officials who violated the order.
Will this bill become law?
So earlier this year, DeSantis formally asked the state legislature to pass legislation that would allow parents to sue school districts that teach critical breed theory. And last year, DeSantis signed a “Charter of Parental Rights” that prohibits government agencies from interfering with parental rights to “direct children’s education, education, health care, and mental health”.
The “parental rights in education” bills align with the state’s previous efforts to legislate in the classroom, albeit advancing parental authority on a new topic. Will this bill become law? The bill goes to DeSantis’ table. The Republican governor has repeatedly voiced his support for the legislation, previously telling reporters that it is “completely inappropriate” for teachers to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity with students.
“Schools should teach children to read and write,” DeSantis said in a news conference. “They should teach them science, history.” The governor cited so-called teachers telling students not to worry about “gender selection” and suggested educators hide school supplies from parents.