The Florida Senate passed the Parental Rights in Education Bill (commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” by opponents) yesterday, sending it to Governor Ron DeSantis for final approval (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-60576847). When signed, the bill will go into effect on July 1, 2022.
A summary of the bill describes its provisions: Requiring district school boards to adopt procedures that comport with certain provisions of law for notifying a student’s parent of specified information; requiring such procedures to reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children in a specified manner; prohibiting a school district from adopting procedures or student support forms that require school district personnel to withhold from a parent specified information or that encourage or have the effect of encouraging a student to withhold from a parent such information; prohibiting a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a specified manner, etc.
Critics of the bill argue that it is hateful and isolates LGBT students. Todd Delmay, a gay man and a father of an 11 year old student, said "A child's need for acceptance in a safe space should always take precedence over some parents' belief." Supporters say that it gives parents more freedom and say in their child’s education and protects children from material that isn’t “age-appropriate”. The Florida Family Policy Council said the bill was, "necessary because government schools in the US have become ideological, political and are more interested in shaping a child's politics and sexual inclinations than they are in teaching academics of reading, writing, math, and education". Florida joins Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas in limiting sexual education topics.
This bill marks a growing trend in red states to address education concerns. Several states have already passed bills banning CRT in school while several governors have issued their own “Parent Bill of Rights” related to education legislation and choice. This also comes as parents have gotten more involved in local schools. Between seeing what goes on in a classroom thanks to online teaching and increased scrutiny related to COVID school regulations, parents are speaking out.
Does this bill hurt LGBT students and families, or does it protect young students from inappropriate material? Will this bill stand up to lawsuits, even with criticism from the White House, or will we see more bills like it passed throughout the U.S.?
Image Credit: Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP, FILE