In two separate efforts, Florida is moving to expand the scope of the Parental Rights in Education act, which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law, and to prohibit the required use of preferred pronouns in the state’s educational system.
HB 1223 (pdf), a new bill moving through the Florida Legislature and sponsored by Republican state Rep. Adam Anderson, would extend the ban on teaching about gender and sexual orientation to students in pre-K through eighth grade.
The current ban on instruction about sexuality and gender applies only to kindergarten through third grade.
The bill would also prohibit employees, contractors, and students in Florida’s educational institutions “from being required to use, from providing, and from being asked to provide certain titles and pronouns; prohibiting students from being penalized or subjected to certain treatment for not providing certain titles and pronouns.”
In addition to banning classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity through the eighth grade, the bill also states that any such instruction in grades nine through 12 must be “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
Parents who find their school district has violated this proposed measure would be able to seek injunctive relief, and courts may award damages.
The bill is in the House Education and Employment Committee.
The Florida Department of Education also proposed a new rule on March 16 that would prohibit classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in pre-K through third grade without exception and in grades four through 12 except under specific circumstances (pdf).
For grades four through 12, “instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited unless such instruction is either expressly required by state academic standards … or is part of a reproductive health course or health lesson for which a student’s parent has the option to have his or her student not attend,” the proposed rule says.
A hearing to discuss the proposal—which would not require legislative approval—is scheduled for April 19 at 9 a.m. at the Florida State Capitol Complex in Tallahassee. Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. approved the proposed rule change.
At a March 22 press briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the new proposal is “completely, utterly wrong.”
“Make no mistake,” she added. “This is part of a disturbing and dangerous trend that we’re seeing across the country with legislations that are anti-LGBTQI+, anti-trans, anti-the community in a way that we have not seen in some time.”
She also vowed that the Biden administration would “continue to fight for the dignity of Americans.”
Diaz responded to Jean-Pierre’s comments on Twitter.
“Students should be spending their time in school learning core academic subjects, not being force-fed radical gender and sexual ideology,” Diaz wrote. “In Florida, we’re preserving the right of kids to be kids.”
DeSantis press secretary Bryan Griffin also responded to Jean-Pierre online.
“There is no reason for instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity to be part of K-12 public education. Full stop.”
The Epoch Times reached out to Anderson, the governor’s office, and the Florida Department of Education.
Public Support for Florida Bill
In March 2022, DeSantis signed House Bill 1557 (pdf) into law. The Parental Rights in Education act “prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.”
Even though the word “gay” is never mentioned in the measure, LGBT activists have consistently labeled it the “Don’t Say Gay” law. In spite of those efforts, polling shows that after reading the bill, people overwhelmingly support the measure.
In a Public Opinion Strategies poll conducted in March 2022 (pdf), 67 percent of parents said they supported the law, while only 24 percent voiced opposition. Among those who said they “know someone LGBTQ,” 61 percent said they supported the law while just 28 percent were opposed. Even 55 percent of Democrat respondents said they supported the law, with only 29 saying they were opposed.
A New York Times/Siena Poll from September 2022 showed similar results, with 70 percent of respondents saying they opposed allowing teachers to “provide classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity to children in elementary school.” Only 27 percent said they supported the idea.
Most notably, 53 percent of Democrats in that survey said they opposed the classroom instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity.