The Florida State Board of Education voted Wednesday, April 19, to prohibit classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation through 12th grade.
The expansion of the Parental Rights in Education Act, known as “Don’t Say Gay” by critics, allows an exemption for sexual education or health lessons, “for which a student’s parent has the option to have his or her student not attend.”
Board members said there are misconceptions about the rule, which they say is only a clarification of Florida standards for teachers.
The new rule is part of a broader rightward push on cultural issues championed by DeSantis, who is widely expected to run for president in 2024.
The board, whose members are appointed by the governor, unanimously approved prohibiting lessons on gender identity or sexual orientation in grades four through 12, unless the instruction is required by state standards or is part of a health class that parents can opt their children out of.
“This really isn’t a complicated thing,” said board member Esther Byrd.
But LGBTQ+ advocates say the rule is an “assault on freedom.”
“Free states do not wage war on LGBTQ+ people to score cheap political points for a man desperate to be president,” said Joe Saunders, senior political director for Equality Florida.
“This policy will escalate the government censorship that is 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.”
The move is the latest in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ attack on what he calls “woke gender ideology.”
During this year’s session, the Florida Legislature discussed bills that would prohibit children from attending drag shows, require people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their sex at birth, and would ban gender-affirming care for minors.