The Florida Board of Education issues a quasi-ban on teaching gender identity and sexual orientation in public schools

Goff Justice announces a $20 million expansion of nursing education programs

The Florida State 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 extends to an already existing prohibition on such instructions.

The fight has been framed as either for parental rights or a continuation of what opponents see as a growing attack 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 under the justification 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 their 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 groundwork of the so-called “Don’t Say Jay” law. This year, the legislature is preparing to expand that law to higher levels, but the state assembly beat them to it, to the disappointment of former sex 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 state Education Commissioner Manny Diaz dismantling some of the arguments made against it, such as claims that its language is too broad and vague. It 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’re not removing anything here. All we do is set expectations, so our teachers are clear that they must teach according to standards,” said Education Commissioner Manny Diaz. Much has been said about mental health and individual 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 Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ongoing war against what he describes as a “vigilant ideology.” The Republican-led legislature is on board with DeSantis, particularly when it comes to what LGBTQ advocates see as a targeted crackdown on aspects of their identity.