The Florida Board of Education has approved a new rule that states, “Schools may not knowingly provide classroom instruction to students in grades four through twelve regarding sexual orientation or gender identity unless such instruction is expressly required by state academic standards.”
The rule expands the Parents’ Rights in Education Act, which prohibits those lessons through the third grade.
The conflict over al-Qaeda has been framed as either for parental rights or a continuation of what opponents see as a growing offensive against LGBT people.
For Ryan Kennedy of the Florida Citizens Coalition, the line is clear:
“We believe the focus on education should always be on teaching basics, math, science, history, etc. in the classroom. And when it comes to issues like sexual orientation and gender identity – those issues should be left at home for parents to decide.”
The line is also clear to Panhandle resident Dennis Barber:
“You made up your mind before you entered this room, but I feel a moral obligation as a parent of a transgender child and a grandfather of a transgender child, to say this rule is based on hate. It’s homophobic, it’s bigoted, and it’s a disgrace.”
When Florida lawmakers approved the Parental Rights in Education Act last year, they did so with the argument that some schools had gone too far by including such lessons in their sex education curricula, which are traditionally determined at the local level.
The Lyon County School District was accused of willfully failing to inform a parent of a child’s intention to use a different name and pronouns at school — a battle that eventually led to a lawsuit and formed part of the law’s grounds, which critics have dubbed “Don’t Say ‘Gay’.”
This year, lawmakers are preparing to extend that law to upper grade levels, but the Board of Education outmaneuvered them by expanding the rule, much to the disappointment of former sex education teacher Melinda Stanwood.
“If students are not getting their questions answered by their trusted teachers or those parents who are willing to talk to their children, they are likely to be given answers to their questions by peers or the Internet, with questionable safety and accuracy,” she told the board. .
At the end of an hour-long debate about the rule, the decision was made to adopt the rule, with Education Commissioner Manny Diaz dismantling some of the arguments made against it, such as claims that its language is overly broad and vague and can lead teachers to self-censor. There are also concerns that the rule could harm the mental health of children who are already struggling.
“We don’t remove anything here. All we do is set expectations, so our teachers are clear that they must teach according to standards,” Diaz said. “Much has been said about mental health and one-on-one services for students. This doesn’t touch any of that. We want to be clear that our teachers are there to teach and provide resources when mental health is needed. Our guidance counselors are there to provide these services. These things are separate and separate. ”
The board’s actions are part of the state’s broader agenda in Governor Ron DeSantis’ ongoing war against what he describes as a “vigilant ideology.” The Republican-led legislature aligns with DeSantis, particularly when it comes to what LGBTQ advocates see as a targeted crackdown on aspects of their identity.
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