By THE CENTER SQUARE STAFF
(The Center Square) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed legislation that bans teachers in kindergarten through third grade from teaching about “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” in the classroom.
Numerous media outlets and opponents of the bill, including President Joe Biden, claim the measure is “anti-gay,” or uses the words “don’t say gay” to suggest it’s anti-LGBTQ. A review last month of the seven-page bill by The Center Square revealed no such attacking language exists, and the bill never uses the word “gay.”
“In Florida, we not only know that parents have a right to be involved, we insist that parents have a right to be involved,” Gov. DeSantis said Monday at a news conference in Spring Hill, Fla.
Sponsored by Republicans Speaker Pro Tem Bryan Avila of Miami Springs and Joe Harding of Ocala, the bill requires schools to teach children age-appropriate material and to provide parents access to their children’s records and involve them in the decisions about mental health and other services offered for their children.
It prohibits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from being taught to children in kindergarten through third grade. It also requires that instruction starting at fourth grade and beyond be age and developmentally appropriate.
The bill states, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
The bill also requires school boards to notify parents if there’s a change in their child’s services or monitoring related to their mental, emotional or physical health and well-being or the school’s ability to provide a safe and supportive learning environment. It also ensures that parents have access to their child’s education and health records.
Democratic Rep. Mike Grieco, an opponent of the legislation, said last month that the bill attacks LGBTQ people. He said those who voted for it can “never ever claim to be an ally of the LGBTQ community” because they are “voting to be an opponent.”
House Speaker Chris Sprowls said parents should have a say in when their young children are taught about such subject matters.
“I am sure that most parents would agree when we say that 5 and 6-year-olds should not be exposed to sensitive topics in the classroom and that parents should decide when to address those subjects with their child,” Mr. Sprowls said last month. “This should not have been controversial, but advocates and their allies spun a false narrative that many bought into.”
The new law takes effect in July ahead of the 2022–2023 school year.