Settlement Clears Up Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' Bill

Teachers can talk about sexual orientation, gender identity, just not as part of instruction
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 12, 2024 8:44 AM CDT
Florida Teachers, You Can Talk About LGBTQ+ Topics
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the Parental Rights in Education bill, also known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, at Classical Preparatory School in Spring Hill, Florida, on March 28, 2022.   (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)

Students and teachers can discuss sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida classrooms, provided it's not part of instruction, under a settlement reached Monday between Florida education officials and civil rights attorneys who'd challenged a state law that critics dubbed "Don't Say Gay." The settlement clarifies what's allowed in Florida classrooms following passage two years ago of the law prohibiting instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades, per the AP. Opponents said the law had created confusion about whether teachers could identity themselves as LGBTQ+, or if they could even have rainbow stickers in classrooms.

  • Terms: The Florida Board of Education will send instructions to every school district saying the Florida law doesn't prohibit discussing LGBTQ+ people, nor prevent anti-bullying rules based on sexual orientation and gender identity or disallow Gay-Straight Alliance groups. The settlement also notes the law is neutral—meaning what applies to LGBTQ+ people also applies to heterosexual people.

  • Books: The law also doesn't apply to library books not being used for instruction in the classroom, or to books with incidental references to LGBTQ+ characters or same-sex couples, "as they are not instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity any more than a math problem asking students to add bushels of apples is instruction on apple farming," according to the settlement.
  • For: The law barred instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through the third grade, and it was expanded to all grades last year. Republican lawmakers argued that parents should broach these subjects with children, and that the law protected children from being taught inappropriate material.
  • Against: Opponents of the law said it created a chilling effect in classrooms. Some teachers said they were unsure if they could mention or display a photo of their same-sex partner in the classroom. In some cases, books dealing with LGBTQ+ topics were removed from classrooms, and lines mentioning sexual orientation were excised from school musicals.
  • Suit: Civil rights attorneys sued Florida education officials on behalf of teachers, students, and parents, claiming the law was unconstitutional, but the case was dismissed last year by a federal judge in Tallahassee who said they lacked standing to sue. The case was appealed
  • DeSantis reaction: In a statement, the governor's office described the deal as a "major win," with the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education Act remaining intact.
More here. (More Florida stories.)

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