Education /

Florida House Passes Bill Limiting Discussion of 'Gender Identity' and Sexual Orientation in Schools

The Florida House has passed a parental rights in education bill on Thursday, which would limit the discussion of “gender identity” and sexual orientation in schools.

The bill, H.B. 1557, has been branded the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics.

Under the legislation, teachers will not be permitted to discuss sexuality or gender between kindergarten and third grade “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

If a parent believes a school district has violated the policy, they will be permitted to take legal action.

The bill will also ban policies in schools that might lead to withholding information about a child’s mental, emotional or physical health from their parents — unless there is a reasonable belief that the information could lead to abuse, abandonment, or neglect.

Seven Republicans crossed party lines to vote against the bill.

The bill passed in the state House Education and Employment Committee in January and an almost identical bill has been introduced in the state senate.

Earlier this month, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told reporters that it is “entirely inappropriate” for teachers to be discussing gender identities with students.

“Schools need to be teaching kids to read, to write,” DeSantis said. “They need to teach them science, history. We need more civics and understanding of the U.S. Constitution, what makes our country unique, all those basic things.”

“You have politicians saying parents have no role in the education of their kids. Give me a break,” he added. “We want parents to be able to have access to what’s going on in the classroom. And certainly, it is inappropriate to be hiding these things from parents.”

“We’ve seen instances of students being told by different folks in school, ‘Oh, well, don’t worry, don’t pick your gender yet, do all this other stuff.’ They won’t tell the parents about these discussions that are happening. That is entirely inappropriate,” DeSantis continued.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, who is also gay, said of the bill, “it’s going to have, really, a chilling effect on the ability of school districts to continue with LGBTQ-inclusive policies that create positive educational environments for our youth,” during a news conference held by House Democrats, according to a report from Orlando Weekly.

DeSantis has not expressly stated that he will sign the legislation into law, but his open support indicates that he will.

President Joe Biden has condemned the bill, referring to it as “hateful.”

“I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community — especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill — to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are,” Biden tweeted in early February. “I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve.”

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