A Florida bill would limit how teachers can discuss sexuality and gender in the classroom, the latest effort by Republican lawmakers to remove the teaching of LGBTQ issues in schools.
Proponents say the measure gives parents who deserve a say in what their children learn, but critics – who have dubbed the proposal the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill – argue it will remove protections for LGBTQ children and will have a chilling effect on educators.
Versions of the so-called “parental rights in education” bill were passed by a Florida House committee in January and approved by a Senate committee this week.
What’s in the bill
Below the house bill, a Florida school district “may not encourage classroom discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity in the elementary grades or in a manner that is not appropriate for the age or development of students “. The bill does not specify how “age appropriate” and “developmentally appropriate” would be defined.
The bills would also give parents the ability to sue schools if they believe schools have violated any provisions of the law.
Florida Governor Signals Support
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signaled support for the measure at an event on Monday but did not say whether he would sign the bill if it reached his office.
“We’ve seen cases of students being told by different people at school, ‘Oh, don’t worry, don’t choose your gender yet, do all these other things. They will not tell parents about these discussions that are taking place. It’s totally inappropriate,” DeSantis said.
“The biggest problem with all of this is that parents need to have a seat at the table when it comes to what’s going on in their schools,” he added.
Critics say the bill is dangerous for LGBTQ children
But LGBTQ advocates have criticized the measure, and President Biden has weighed in this week, analyzing the proposal and reiterating that his administration will work toward greater protections for LGBTQ people.
“I want all members of the LGBTQI+ community – especially children who will be affected by this.
“I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community – especially the children who will be affected by this hateful bill – to know that you are loved and accepted for who you are,” Biden tweeted on Tuesday. “I support you and my administration will continue to fight for the protections and security you deserve.”
The group Equality Florida, which campaigns to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, said the bill was “dangerous” and accused lawmakers of targeting LGBTQ youth.
“This legislation aims to stigmatize LGBTQ people, isolate LGBTQ children and make teachers fearful of providing a safe and inclusive classroom,” the group said. said in a press release. “The existence of LGBTQ students and parents is not a taboo subject that needs to be regulated by the Florida Legislature.”
A version of this story originally appeared in the morning edition live blog.