Florida expands parental rights bill to include grades 4-12

by Will Tubbs

Matt Bush, FISM News

The Florida State Board of Education voted to implement new rules on Wednesday that will expand the scope of the “Parental Rights in Education” Law to include all grades from pre-Kindergarten to grade 12.

Last spring, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 1557, which forbid teachers from discussing sexual topics with children grades K-3, into law; and those new regulations went into effect in July 2022.

Critics called the law “Don’t Say Gay” because, among other things, it said, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

Last month, DeSantis proposed a rule to the board that would expand the scope of the initial law. The new rule states, “Obligation to the student requires that the individual…Shall not intentionally provide classroom instruction to students in grades 4 through 12 on sexual orientation or gender identity unless such instruction is either expressly required by state academic standards as adopted in Rule 6A-1.09401, F.A.C., or is part of a reproductive health course or health lesson for which a student’s parent has the option to have his or her student not attend.”

The vote was simply a rule change made by the State School Board that will take effect in 30 days, but it is not written into the law. Lawmakers in the Florida Senate and House, however, are working on getting the actual law changed to include the new expansion. The House passed its version of the law already and the Senate is expected to do so next week.

Opponents of the original bill and its expansion are speaking out again. They believe that the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law harms children who identify as gay or transgender.

“This policy will escalate the government censorship sweeping our state, exacerbate our educator exodus, drive hardworking families from Florida, and further stigmatize and isolate a population of young people who need our support now more than ever,” Equality Florida, an LGBTQ rights group, tweeted in response to the approved rule.

DeSantis and other conservatives in the state view the law and its expansion as a way to keep parental rights and involvement central in the educational system. 

“Parents’ rights have been increasingly under assault around the nation, but in Florida we stand up for the rights of parents and the fundamental role they play in the education of their children,” DeSantis said last spring when he signed the legislation into law. “Parents have every right to be informed about services offered to their child at school and should be protected from schools using classroom instruction to sexualize their kids as young as 5 years old.”

The new expansion comes as many people believe DeSantis will announce his decision to run for President and while the governor continues his fight against Disney. 

Disney pushed back against the initial legislation and pushed back again last month when DeSantis announced the expansion. 

“It is wrong for a teacher to tell a student that they may have been born in the wrong body or that their gender is a choice,” DeSantis said while in Charleston, South Carolina. “So we don’t let that happen in Florida. Disney objects to that, well so be it, we’re going to do that,” DeSantis continued, bringing Disney into the fight.

At the same time, former President Donald Trump continues to release adds and statements attacking DeSantis on a variety of levels. DeSantis, in contrast, has remained largely silent in that arena, seemingly content to let his legislation and his governance of the state do his talking.