Copyright: Ted Eytan
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is condemning the Florida Board of Education’s vote on Wednesday to expand the “Don’t Say Gay” law through the 12th grade.
The new rule will ban classroom instruction in gender identity and sexual orientation in all grades, expanding the law passed last year that already inhibited or outright prohibited public classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through grade three. That law also decreed that sexual orientation or gender identity may not be referenced in any grade in a manner that is not “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” The law also essentially encourages parents to sue districts over alleged violations and teachers to effectively “out” students to parents without regard to the student’s safety.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appoints the board members, who voted unanimously to prohibit “lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity from grades four-12, unless required by existing state standards or as part of reproductive health instruction that students can choose not to take.” DeSantis confirmed that the law is nothing more than anti-LGBTQIA+ bigotry when he said last year that it will protect children from “grooming.” The despicable implication, of course, was that all LGBTQIA+ individuals are sexual predators and that any mention or acknowledgment of sexual orientation is an attempt to prey on children.
As FFRF’s Catherine Fahringer Student Activist awardee Will Larkins movingly described in his guest essay in The New York Times, “Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Will Hurt Teens Like Me”: “From an early age I knew I was different. . . . By fourth grade, I was convinced that I was broken. I didn’t know how to defend myself when other kids made hateful comments or bullied me — I didn’t know why I was the way that I was.” In learning “how common the experience of falling outside the gender binary was . . . I grew to understand and love myself. Education made me hate myself less.” The Trevor Project shows that LGBTQIA+ teenagers are far less likely to attempt suicide if they learn about LGBTQIA+ issues in school.
This new expansion will go into effect next month after a procedural “notice period.” By expanding the law to encompass upper grade levels, DeSantis and the Florida Board of Education have made it clear that the flimsy excuse that the original law was meant to “protect” particularly young children was merely a pretext to open the door to large-scale censorship, homophobia and transphobia in all Florida public schools.