Florida Governor Signs Bill Critics Dubbed ‘Don’t Say Gay’

By: - March 29, 2022 12:00 am

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the “Parental Rights in Education” bill into law. Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via The Associated Press

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed into law a bill that gives parents more oversight of their children’s education and limits classroom discussions on gender and sexual orientation.

“Parents have every right to be informed about services offered to their child at school, and should be protected from schools using classroom instruction to sexualize their kids as young as 5 years old,” DeSantis said in a statement.

The new law, titled “Parental Rights in Education” and called the “don’t say gay” bill by opponents, prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, and in other grades in a manner that is not “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.”

It drew strong criticism from national LGBTQ groups, the White House and some companies in the state.

“DeSantis has damaged our state’s reputation as a welcoming and inclusive place for all families, he has made us a laughing stock and target of national derision. Worse, he has made schools less safe for children,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, in a statement. “This law will not stand and we will work to see it removed either by the courts as unconstitutional or repealed by the legislature.”

The law also reinforces certain parents’ rights in schools, such as allowing them to access their child’s education and health records and notifying them when their child receives mental, emotional or physical health services. Under the law—which goes into effect in July—parents have the right to sue school districts, and districts will be responsible for the costs of the lawsuits.

This legislative session, mostly Republican legislators in at least 27 states have filed bills that they say would give parents more control over what their children learn in public schools. LGBTQ advocates and educators worry the bills, if enacted, would alienate students and push teachers out of the classroom.

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Aallyah Wright

Aallyah Wright reports on rural affairs and leads race and equity coverage for Stateline. Previously, Aallyah worked for Mississippi Today, a digital nonprofit newsroom covering K-12 education and government in the Mississippi Delta.