DeSantis Acts to Bar Lessons on Sexual Identity in All Grades

Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' policy would apply through high school
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 22, 2023 5:09 PM CDT
DeSantis Acts to Bar Lessons on Sexual Identity in All Grades
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the Parental Rights in Education bill at Classical Preparatory school on March 28, 2022, in Shady Hills, Fla.   (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration is moving to prohibit classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades, expanding the law critics call "Don't Say Gay" as the Republican continues to focus on cultural issues ahead of his expected presidential run. The proposal, which would not require legislative approval, is scheduled for a vote next month by the state Board of Education and has been put forth by Florida's Education Department, both of which are led by appointees of the governor. The rule change would ban lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in grades 4 to 12, unless required by existing state standards or as part of reproductive health instruction that students can choose not to take, the AP reports.

The initial law that DeSantis championed last spring bans those lessons in kindergarten through third grade. DeSantis has leaned into cultural divides on his path to an anticipated White House bid, aggressively pursuing a conservative agenda that targets what he calls the insertion of inappropriate subjects in public schools. Last year's Parental Rights in Education Act drew widespread backlash nationally, with critics saying it marginalizes LGBTQ people. DeSantis and other Republicans have said that the measure is reasonable and that parents, not teachers, should be broaching subjects of sexual orientation and gender identity with their children.

Critics of the law say its language—"classroom instruction," "age appropriate," and "developmentally appropriate"—is overly broad and subject to interpretation. Consequently, teachers might avoid the subjects entirely for fear of being sued, they say. The law also kicked off a feud between the state and Disney, one of the state's largest employers and political donors, after the entertainment giant publicly opposed the law and said it was pausing political donations in the state. (Disney plans to host a major LGBTQ conference in September.)

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