News (USA)

Florida expands Don’t Say Gay law through 12th grade

Gov. Ron DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis Photo: Shutterstock

The Florida Board of Education has officially expanded the state’s ban on acknowledging LGBTQ+ identities in the classroom.

The current Don’t Say Gay law bans discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3, and the board’s new policy now extends those restrictions through grade 12.

The board voted in favor of the change after anti-LGBTQ+ Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) administration proposed it.

The updated policy states that public school teachers “shall not intentionally provide classroom instruction to students in grades 4 through 12 on sexual orientation or gender identity unless such instruction is either expressly required by state academic standards… or is part of a reproductive health course or health lesson for which a student’s parent has the option to have his or her student not attend.”

According to ABC News, the Board’s vote came after a public hearing in which opponents blasted the new rule for censoring free speech, as well as for its vague language.

One person argued that “there’s no clear distinction between discussion or instruction.”

A teacher who spoke said students “felt safe to ask me [about LGBQ+ identities] because they trusted me as a teacher and their parents, who opt into sex education for their child, trusted me to answer them. Please understand, if students do not get their questions answered either by their trusted teachers or by those parents that are willing to talk with our children, they will likely find the answers from their peers or the internet with dubious safety inaccuracy.”

Equality Florida senior political director Joe Saunders also blasted the stricter policy.

Free states do not wage war on LGBTQ+ people to score cheap political points for a man desperate to be president. This policy will escalate the government censorship that is sweeping our state.”

The Don’t Say Gay law has caused national outrage since it was first proposed by state Rep. Joseph Harding (R) – who recently pled guilty to multiple charges related to COVID-19 relief fraud and faces up to 35 years in prison.

Since its passage, schools have been forced to roll back policies protecting LGBTQ+ students. Students have reported an overall “hostile environment” toward LGBTQ+ in their schools, with some being forcibly outed to their parents by administrators.

The law has also inspired numerous copycat bills around the country.

DeSantis, widely expected to run for president in 2024, has used the demonization of people of color and queer folks as a cornerstone of his political career. He has gone to war with Disney, launched numerous blindsides attacking “woke indoctrination” in schools, and taken control of the state’s education system with handpicked administrators and the power of the bully pulpit. His staff has regularly smeared LGBTQ+ people and allies on social media with vile slurs and insinuations of sexual abuse.

“In the state of Florida, we are not going to allow them to inject transgenderism into kindergarten. First graders shouldn’t have woke gender ideology in their curriculums. And that’s what we’re standing for,” DeSantis said in one conspiratorial rant.

DeSantis’s ruthless campaign against LGBTQ+ youth in his state has led more than half of LGBTQ+ parents to consider leaving the state, according to a survey from the Williams Institute.

The situation has become so bad that earlier this month, Florida’s preeminent LGBTQ+ rights organization issued an official travel warning to LGBTQ+ people considering visiting the state.

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