Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration is moving to expand provisions of a current law that bans the discussion of LGBTQ issues in the state’s public schools.
The Parental Rights in Education Act — better known nationally as the “Don’t Say Gay” law — currently disallows classroom discussion on gender identity and sexual orientation in grades K-3. Such discussions are currently allowable in grades 4-12, so long as educators abide by the ambiguous standard of being “age-appropriate.”
A proposed amendment to the law, however, set to be considered by two state agencies, would expand the restrictions to apply to all grade levels.
Both the state Board of Education and the state Education Department, which are led by people who were appointed by DeSantis, are set to vote on changes to the law that would also ban discussion of LGBTQ topics in upper grade levels.
Schools “shall not intentionally provide classroom instruction to students in grades 4 through 12 on sexual orientation or gender identity unless such instruction is … expressly required by state academic standards,” one of the main parts of the amendment reads. Under that language, LGBTQ history or current events could not be discussed in the classroom, and LGBTQ students could be restricted from bringing up topics important to them or even from discussing possible harassment from their peers with teachers.
The proposed changes to the law by the state education agencies do not require legislative approval. A vote on the changes is set to occur next month.
In addition to DeSantis’s policies prohibiting the right of students and teachers to discuss LGBTQ topics, his administration has limited what educators can teach about Black history and racism in the U.S., for example. It is currently believed that DeSantis will soon announce a 2024 presidential run.
The DeSantis administration’s proposal to expand “Don’t Say Gay” in the state was widely condemned.
“It’s wrong, it’s completely, utterly wrong,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, adding that the proposal is “part of a disturbing and dangerous trend that we’re seeing across the nation” against LGBTQ people, especially youth.
LGBTQ groups in Florida also decried the proposed changes to the law.
“For a year, Don’t Say LGBTQ has wreaked havoc on our state,” Equality Florida said in a tweet. “Books banned. Safe Space stickers peeled from windows. Families debating whether Florida schools are safe for their children. Now, the governor is looking to escalate his assault.”
The organization added:
This has been the goal all along: sweeping censorship and book banning targeting LGBTQ people in service to his presidential ambitions. Now educators, in any grade level, and their livelihoods are being placed directly in the crosshairs for acknowledging that LGBTQ people exist.
Carlos Guillermo Smith, a former state legislator and current special projects manager for Equality Florida, denounced the proposal to further restrict LGBTQ discussions in schools.
“It was never, ever, ever, ever about kindergarten thru 3rd grade. It was always about demonizing us and censoring LGBTQ people out of existence in our schools,” he said.