Florida's DeSantis Rebukes 'Don't Say Gay' Media Narrative: 'Does It Say That in the Bill?'

Florida's DeSantis Rebukes 'Don't Say Gay' Media Narrative: 'Does It Say That in the Bill?'
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a press conference at the Miami Dade College’s North Campus in Miami, Florida on Jan. 26, 2022. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Bill Pan

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday challenged a reporter about the exact contents of an education bill, pushing back against a media narrative that has misnamed the proposed measure the "Don't Say Gay" bill.

Officially titled "Parental Rights in Education," House Bill 1557 (pdf), would in part prohibit school districts from encouraging classroom discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.
During a press conference Monday, DeSantis was asked by WFLA reporter Evan Donovan if he supported HB 1557, which was referred to as a piece of legislation "that critics call the 'Don't Say Gay' bill."

"Does it say that in the bill?" DeSantis asked, cutting the reporter's question. When Donovan tried to ask again, the governor asked him whether he understood what the bill was actually about.

"I'm asking you to tell me what's in the bill, because you are pushing false narratives," DeSantis said. "It doesn't matter what critics say."

Donovan responded that the bill "bans classroom instruction on sexual identity and gender orientation," only to be further questioned by the governor about the bill's details.

"For who?" DeSantis asked. "For grades pre-K through three—so, 5-year-olds, 6-year-olds, 7-year-olds. And the idea that you wouldn't be honest about that and tell people what it actually says is why people don't trust people like you, because you peddle false narratives."

"So we disabuse you of those narratives," DeSantis continued as some press conference attendees began to clap and cheer. "We're going to make sure that parents are able to send their kid to kindergarten without having some of this stuff injected into their school curriculum."

Under HB 1557, school districts will also be prohibited from withholding certain information from parents, especially when it comes to decisions affecting their children's mental, emotional, or physical well-being. Schools may also not administer a questionnaire or health screening form to a student in grades K-3 without first receiving consent from the student’s parent.

DeSantis said in February that he wants to direct public education in his state to focus on academic excellency, not political activism.

"At the end of the day, you know, my goal is to educate kids on the subjects—math, reading, science—all the things that are so important," DeSantis said. "I don't want the schools to kind of be a playground for ideological disputes or to try to inject."

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