Florida’s legislation, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, has been subject to intense national scrutiny.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed the legislation Monday banning instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade. Republicans believe that parents should discuss these topics with their children. Democrats claim the law stigmatizes LGBTQ people and excludes them from school lessons.
WHAT DO THE LAW DO?
The law’s core language is: “School personnel and third parties may not instruct students on sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms from kindergarten to grade 3. This is in accordance with state standards.”
Districts would be allowed to sue parents for violations.
DeSantis showed a poster featuring a drawing of “The Genderbread Person” that he considered inappropriate for young students during his bill signing ceremony. This was created to help students understand and distinguish between anatomical, gender expression, and gender identity.
The graphic was used in anti-bullying training programs. It was also offered as a resource by Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based LGBTQ rights advocacy group.
DeSantis stated, “This is to sow doubt among kids about their gender identity.” It’s trying to tell them that they can be anything they want. This is unacceptable for kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders. This is unacceptable for parents and students in schools.
DeSantis stated that the graphic was being used by Florida and other states.
What are the CRITICISMS?
Opponents argue that banning lessons on gender identity and sexual orientation is discriminatory and marginalizes LGBTQ people.
They have also called the bill the “Don’t Say Gay” law. Republicans are furious at this phrase, and chastise advocacy groups as well as news outlets who have used it.
Critics of the law claim that its language, “classroom instruction”, “age appropriate” or “developmentally appropriate”, is too broad and open to interpretation. Teachers might choose to ignore the subject matter at all grade levels in fear of being sued.
These concerns were ignored by Richard Corcoran, Florida Education Commissioner, and DeSantis. Corcoran cites a section in the legislation that requires his agency create additional guidelines.
Corcoran stated, “Now we have the ability to go and… make it work so people understand.” Corcoran stated that passing the law was a way to set clear guidelines.
Andrew Spar, president and CEO of the Florida Education Association said that the law was a political issue for Republicans. He points out that these subjects are not taught in elementary schools, particularly those in kindergarten and third grades.
IS THE LAW ABLE TO DO ANYTHING ELSE?
Another aspect of the law that is less well-known is the requirement for districts to inform parents about health care services available in schools and allow them to choose to decline.
Parents will be notified by the district if their student’s mental, physical or emotional health monitors change.
Republicans claim the law is meant to keep parents informed about what their children are learning and exposed to at school. Similar to the Republicans, DeSantis signed a bill last week that allows parents to decide what books schools can have in their libraries. It also requires elementary schools provide a searchable listing of all books used in instruction.
Despite the hints from Democrats and LGBTQ advocacy groups, nothing has happened.
U.S. Secretary for Education Miguel Cardona said Monday that his agency would monitor the law’s implementation in order to determine if it violates federal civil right law. Parents and students who feel they are being discriminated against at school can file complaints with federal officials.