On Feb. 8, the Florida Senate Education Committee passed the Parental Rights in Education Bill, often referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” by critics.
The bill, proposed by Republican State Sen. Dennis Baxley, requires schools to adopt procedures to “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children in a specified manner.”
The legislation specifies that school personnel must allow parents to have access to their children’s records and involve parents in critical decisions affecting their children’s mental, emotional or physical well-being.
The bill additionally states that “a school district may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki even weighed in on the state-level bill and blamed “conservative politicians” for “advancing legislation that is designed to target and attack the kids who need support the most.”
But Rep. Joe Harding, a sponsor of the bill, argued that the bill is intended to protect children, not “attack” them.
“The bill is designed to keep school districts from talking about [sexual orientation and gender identity] before kids are ready to process them. I don’t think it’s controversial to empower parents,” he said. “Kids can and they will talk about whatever they want at school. We just want to make sure that teachers promote that discussion at the right age level, and we want to make sure that parents are kept in the loop.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis has signaled his support for the bill.
“Schools need to be teaching kids to read, to write,” he told reporters Feb. 7. “They need to teach them science, history. We need more civics and understanding of the U.S. Constitution, what makes our country unique, all [that] basic stuff.
“The larger issue with all of this is parents must have a seat at the table when it comes to what’s going on in their schools,” DeSantis added.
If Florida legislators pass the bill, it would go into effect on July 1, with all school district plans having to be updated by June 30, 2023.