The Florida Senate on Tuesday passed a controversial education bill that would restrict the teaching of LGBTQ+ content in state schools. The bill passed in the chamber by a vote of 22 to 17.
The Parental Rights in Education bill, which has been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, limits educators from addressing topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity at certain grade levels, and would allow parents to take action against schools that violate this policy. It was passed in the Florida House at the end of February.
Proponents of the bill say that it’s intended to give parents greater rights regarding their children’s education. Florida State Representative Joe Harding, who sponsored the bill, has said that the bill would not ban spontaneous discussions that arise in the classroom, but that with regards to the curriculum, “We want the focus to be on those basic fundamental things. The reading, the writing, the math,” CBS reports.
Opponents, however, say that the bill, along with its ambiguous phrasing with regards to material deemed inappropriate for certain grade levels, could effectively allow parents to challenge the use of LGBTQ+ content in any classroom and cut LGBTQ+ students off from receiving educational, emotional, and mental support that they need.
The Biden administration has been critical of the legislation. “Parents across the country are looking to national, state, and district leaders to support our nation’s students, help them recover from the pandemic, and provide them the academic and mental health supports they need. Instead, leaders in Florida are prioritizing hateful bills that hurt some of the students most in need,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a statement released Tuesday. He noted that schools receiving federal aid are required to abide by anti-discrimination laws under Title IX protections, including with regards to sexual orientation and gender identity.
“We stand with our LGBTQ+ students in Florida and across the country, and urge Florida leaders to make sure all their students are protected and supported,” he concluded.
The bill now goes to the desk of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Should he sign it into law, it would take effect in July 2022.