By the time the Florida Legislature begins its 2023 session on Tuesday, Republican lawmakers have already filed a trio of bills that would expand a recently enacted education law that prohibits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Nearly a year ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill, or what critics dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law. Measure prohibits “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade “or in a manner that is not appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students according to state standards” ”
State Representative Adam Anderson filed a measure last week that would extend the law by prohibiting classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in prekindergarten through eighth grade. And if such instruction is provided in grades nine through 12, it must be “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for the students according to state standards.”
The bill, HB 1223, would expand to charter schools and private pre-K programs, which are excluded under current education law.
Anderson’s bill, which had two additional co-sponsors as of Wednesday morning, would also implement a statewide definition of “gender” as a “binary division of individuals based on reproductive function” and “an immutable biological characteristic.” Consequently, the bill states, “It is wrong to assign to a person a pronoun which is not consistent with the sex of such person.” The measure would prevent schools from using pronouns or titles for personnel, contractors and students if they do not correspond to a person’s assigned gender at birth. It would also bar school personnel from sharing their pronouns or titles if they don’t align with their birth gender.
Anderson did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.
Michael Woods, a special education teacher at a high school in Palm Beach County, said lawmakers are not addressing the real needs of schools in the state. For example, his school is short of seven special education teachers, he said. Statewide, there are more than 5,000 teacher vacancies, as the Orlando Sentinel reported in January.
“I don’t understand why banning pronouns is more important than hiring teachers, getting cost-effective insurance, making sure people can buy homes,” Woods said. “Instead of addressing issues like why do we have so many teacher shortages, why are we missing seven teachers, they have chosen to double down on ‘don’t say gay’ and really crazy requirements this year. “
State Representative Stan McClain and state Sen. Clay Yarborough, both Republicans, introduced bills similar to Anderson’s that would also regulate education on reproductive health and require school districts to create a process that allows parents to access teachers’ classroom libraries. Allow objection to books.
Florida schools currently offer health education at all grade levels, which addresses more than a dozen components including environmental health, nutrition and substance use. Students from classes six to 12 additionally receive instruction on “the benefits of sexual abstinence as an expected norm and the consequences of teen pregnancy”. Schools are not required to provide sex education, but when they do provide education on HIV/AIDS, they must have a curriculum approved by their school board.
McClain’s bill, HB 1069, would limit instruction on reproductive health to sixth through 12th grades. Among its provisions, the bill would require schools to teach that “sex is determined by biology and reproductive function at birth; that biological males impregnate biological females by fertilizing a female egg with male sperm; that females then produce offspring; and that these reproductive roles are binary, stable and unchanging.
McClain did not respond to requests for comment.
Yarborough’s bill, SB 1320, titled “Child Protection in Public Schools,” is similar to McClain’s, but would limit instruction on reproductive health to grades nine through 12. The bill has an additional co-sponsor.
In an emailed statement, Yarborough said she believes parents have the right and a “God-given responsibility” to direct their children’s upbringing.
“Decisions about when and whether certain subjects should be introduced to young children are up to parents, who should not be concerned that students are receiving classroom instruction on those subjects and materials,” Yarborough said in the statement. that the parents feel are not suitable.” , “The bill also protects students and teachers from being compelled to use language that would violate their personal beliefs.”
He said: “Every family is different, and children mature at different rates. Education on sexual orientation and gender identity has its place in the home, guided by parents, if they deem appropriate.”
Woods said she’s not surprised lawmakers are trying to expand parents’ rights in the education law. In fact, when he spoke to NBC News in August about how his school was implementing the law, he predicted it would be expanded to more grade levels in the future.
Woods, who is gay, said he would like to re-establish his school’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance, or GSA, a club for LGBTQ students and their allies, but he is not sure how the legislation would affect it. Will do
“There is a lack of response from the state; I can’t put myself out there,” he said, referring to what he described as a vagueness of the law. “I’m mad at myself, because I feel like I let the kids down.”
However, he added, “It’s a law, regardless of how I feel as a human being – a law is still a law.”
So far this year, Florida lawmakers have filed at least 11 bills targeting LGBTQ people, while lawmakers nationwide have filed more than 380, according to the American Civil Liberties Union and a separate group of researchers tracking the flow of legislation. More bills have been filed.