MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — You might be wondering why the Sunshine State has come under national scrutiny over legislation that critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
The Republican legislation, which Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law on Monday, bans sexual orientation and gender identity instruction in kindergarten through third grade.
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Republicans argue that parents should bring up these topics with children. Democrats said the law demonizes LGBTQ people by excluding them from classroom lessons.
WHAT DOES THE LAW DO?
The central language of the law reads: “In-class instruction by school personnel or third parties about sexual orientation or gender identity may not take place in kindergarten through 3rd grade. or in a manner that is not appropriate for the age or development of the students in accordance with state standards.”
Parents could sue districts for violation.
During his bill signing ceremony, DeSantis presented an example of what he considers inappropriate teaching materials for young students: a poster containing a drawing of “The Genderbread Person”, developed to help students to learn and distinguish between anatomical sex, gender expression, gender identity, sexual attraction and romantic attraction.
The graphic has been included in various anti-bullying training programs and offered as a resource by the Washington-based LGBTQ rights group Human Rights Campaign and others.
“It tries to instill doubt in children about their gender identity,” DeSantis said. “He’s trying to say they can be whatever they want to be. This is inappropriate for kindergartens and first and second graders. Parents don’t want this to happen in their schools.
DeSantis said the graphic was used in Florida and other states.
WHAT ARE THE REVIEWS?
Opponents of the law say banning classes on gender identity and sexual orientation marginalizes LGBTQ people and their presence in society.
In that vein, they referred to the measure as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Republicans have chafed at this wording, chastising advocacy groups and media outlets for using it.
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Critics of the law say its language — “classroom instruction,” “age-appropriate” and “developmentally appropriate” — is too broad and subject to interpretation. Therefore, teachers might choose to avoid subjects altogether at all grade levels for fear of being sued, they say.
DeSantis and Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran dismissed those concerns. Corcoran points to a section of the legislation that requires his agency to develop additional guidelines.
“Now we can go and… fix it so people have this clear understanding,” Corcoran said. He said passing the law had the effect of “putting clear safeguards in place”.
Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, said the law was nothing more than a political issue for Republicans. He notes that elementary schools, especially kindergarten through third grade, do not teach these subjects.
DOES THE LAW DO ANYTHING ELSE?
A less-discussed aspect of the law requires districts to notify parents of health care services available in schools and give them the option to opt-out.
Districts will also be required to notify parents of any changes in monitoring a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health.
Republicans said the law was intended to keep parents informed about what children learn and are exposed to in schools. In a similar vein, DeSantis signed a bill last week that gives parents a say in what books schools can and can’t have in their libraries and requires elementary schools to provide a searchable list of all books available or used in teaching.
LGBTQ advocacy groups and Democrats have hinted they will take legal action, but nothing has materialized yet.
US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Monday that his agency “will monitor this law as it is implemented to assess whether it violates federal civil rights law.” He said students or parents who believe they are being discriminated against at school can file complaints with federal authorities.
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(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)