Gov. Ron DeSantis, on March 28, signed a bill that forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Proponents said the measure’s lone intent was to empower parents.
The law also requires public school educators through high school not to address sexual orientation or gender identity in a manner that is not “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” for their students.
Multiple other states have introduced or plan to introduce similar legislation. Proponents say these kinds of discussions should be taking place at the discretion of parents and guardians, in the home, and not at school.
Critics, meanwhile, claim the legislation marginalizes LGBTQ people.
Florida’s Department of Education will have until next summer to develop new rules that define “classroom instruction” and other parts of the law, such as “age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate” instruction.
Conservative lawmakers have argued that sexual orientation and gender identity are being pushed on children in an inappropriate manner in classrooms across the state.
Republican Rep. Joe Harding, who sponsored the bill, told The Hill that the legislation had successfully prevented “far-left school districts from trying to sexualize our children.”
“Florida is no longer just the freest state in the country, it is now the most pro-parent state as well,” Harding said in an email to The Hill.
In March, Harding told WPLG in Miami that he introduced the bill because he had been notified of multiple instances where educators of students as young as kindergarten were teaching lessons about “gender theory and gender identity.”
“The reason that the bill exists is because we have specific examples where this type of instruction has happened in Florida schools,” Harding said then.
He also said Democrats calling the bill “Don’t Say Gay” were lying to children and using students as “political pawns” to further an agenda.
Opponents of the law have been concerned about its potential impact on the mental health and well-being of LGBTQ youth in Florida, as well as saying it violates the First Amendment rights of public school teachers and students.
Reports have surfaced detailing Florida school districts’ attempts to get ahead of potential lawsuits by rolling out new policies that limit the ways in which LGBTQ issues and identities may be talked about in class, The Hill said.
Florida Education Association (FEA) President Andrew Spar told The Hill that districts’ actions aren’t signs of increased anti-LGBTQ hate in schools, but rather indication that educators and other school officials are afraid of losing their jobs.
“That’s why we may see some districts overreact by being extra cautious and just banning any conversations” about LGBTQ topics, Spar told The Hill.
Some teachers have told FEA that some trainings provided by certain school districts included instructions to remove LGBTQ Pride flags, safe space stickers, and photos of same-sex partners from their classrooms.
Reporting by Newsmax TV.