Florida Extends 'Don't Say Gay' to All Grades in Public Schools

Educators in grades 4 to 12 banned from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2023 1:35 PM CDT
Florida Extends 'Don't Say Gay' to All Grades in Public Schools
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the Parental Rights in Education bill at Classical Preparatory School on March 28, 2022, in Shady Hills, Fla.   (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)

Florida's Board of Education has extended the rule critics call "Don't Say Gay" to cover all grades in public schools. The amended rule says teachers in grades 4 to 12 "shall not intentionally provide classroom instruction" on sexual orientation or gender identity, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The rule states that such instruction can only happen if it is "expressly" required by state standards, or if it is "part of a reproductive health course" that parents can opt out of. The move was put forward last month by the state's Education Department, which, like the board, is led by an appointee of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The board, whose members are all DeSantis appointees, voted unanimously for the change, which does not need legislative approval. Florida Chancellor for K-12 Public Schools Paul Burns said at the meeting that "abstinence is the required expectation of what we teach in our schools," meaning that reproductive health courses are unlikely to mention sexual orientation or gender identity, the Washington Post reports. Violating the rule could lead to an educator having their license suspended or revoked, reports Reuters.

Before Wednesday's vote, multiple speakers criticized the move, arguing that it would confuse educators and potentially harm LGBTQ+ students, the Post reports. Joe Saunders, senior political director for Equality Florida, asked whether teachers would be banned from teaching students in Grade 11 about the Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. "Under the vague new rules, a teacher who taught this would be fired and their career would end," Saunders said. "This rule is by design a tool for curating fear, anxiety, and the erasure of our LGBTQ community." (More Florida stories.)

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