POTUS calls Fla. bill prohibiting LGBTQ+ curriculum in schools a ‘hateful attack on gay children’

by mcardinal

Chris Lange, FISM News


A recent bill making its way through the Florida legislature that would prevent schools from teaching young children about sexual orientation and gender identity issues – topics lawmakers say belong in the home not the classroom – has now garnered the attention of President Biden.

The Republican-majority Florida Senate Education Committee on Tuesday approved the measure, dubbed by critics as the “don’t say gay bill,” in a 6-3 vote along party lines following heated debate on the Florida Senate floor.

While conservatives see the bill as a necessary of ensuring that the classroom is not a tool used to indoctrinate impressionable children with liberal ideologies, opponents, including the president, claim the bill’s passage will harm vulnerable LGBTQ children.

The White House responded to the news Tuesday, calling the measure an “attack” on LGBTQI+ children in a tweet. “Today, conservative politicians in Florida advanced legislation designed to attack LGBTQI+ kids. Instead of making growing up harder for young people, @POTUS is focused on keeping schools open and supporting students’ mental health.”

President Biden also expressed anger over the bill’s approval with a tweet sent directly from his @POTUS account:

The bill in question includes specific language prohibiting school districts from encouraging discussions related to sexual orientation and gender identity “in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”

Sponsor Dennis Baxley, (R-Ocala) said the measure is needed in order to clarify the responsibilities of teachers in the classroom ahead of Tuesday’s vote:

Some discussions are for [having] with your parents. And I think when you start having sexual-type discussions with children, you’re entering a very dangerous zone. Your awareness should pop up right away [that] this isn’t teaching.

John Harris Maurer, public policy director for LGBTQ-advocacy group Equality Florida, vigorously objected to the implication that curriculum covering gender identity and sexual orientation is inherently sexual in nature.

“It is patently offensive to say that school discussions, even with young children, referring to two moms or two dads, parents like those that are sitting in this room that are your constituents … is somehow dangerous or inappropriate,” Maurer argued.

Democrats on the panel also criticized what they perceive as ambiguity in the bill. 

Sen. Shevrin Jones, an openly-gay West Park Democrat, argued that the reference to “primary grade levels” goes beyond Baxley’s assertion that the measure will apply only to kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, also suggested the bill’s wording did not align with Baxley’s description of how it would be applied, arguing that the language would also prohibit teachers would from having private conversations with students about sexual orientation and gender identity issues. 

Baxley argued that the measure applies only to “procedures” and “curriculum” in a classroom. 

Schools will also have to inform parents of any changes to services provided to students, including monitoring their mental or physical health, under the measure.

Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) expressed his support for the bill during a press event in Bartow on Tuesday: 

My goal is to educate kids on the subjects, math, reading, science, all the things that are so important. I don’t want the schools to kind of be a playground for ideological disputes.

Republican leaders have been pushing back against schools that seek to discourage or prohibit parental involvement in the education of their children, particularly after the National School Boards Association allegedly colluded with the White House to launch FBI investigations into outspoken parents as possible “domestic terrorists.” 

Parents’ rights concerning their children’s education has become one of the biggest hot-button political issues in the nation, playing a decisive role in Republican Glenn Youngkin’s surprising election as governor of Virginia – something Baxley alluded to in his argument that the subject of the rights and roles of parents and educators must be dealt with expeditiously. 

“The reason that this is in such a feverish pitch, is just what you saw in Virginia when under all this stuff with [parents] being a lot more involved in [their] kids’ school activity and work in response to the pandemic, they found out they’re being left out of the equation,” he said. “And there’s new ideas and new things being planted that they don’t even know about. When they get a statement … from the leadership saying they have no business with what we do in schools … that’s when it explodes,” he continued, adding, “That’s when moms show up and pack rooms.”

Florida Lawmakers passed legislation known as the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” last year which served as the impetus for Gov. Desantis’ executive order prohibiting schools from enacting mask mandates.