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Gov. DeSantis Signs Controversial Parental Rights In Education Bill, Dubbed 'Don't Say Gay', Into Law

MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) - With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed the controversial Parental Rights in Education bill, known to its critics as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, into law.

The signing took place at a preparatory school in Spring Hill.

The law forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for older students.

"This is inappropriate for kindergarteners and first graders and second graders, parents do not want this going on in their schools," said DeSantis before he signed the bill.

Secondly, the law ensures that at the beginning of every school year, parents will be notified about healthcare services offered at the school with the right to decline any service offered.

The law also states that whenever a questionnaire or health screening is given to our young students, parents receive it first and give permission for the school to give it to their child.

Parents will be able to sue districts over violations.

WATCH: Gov. DeSantis Parental Rights In Education Bill Signing

 

DeSantis said the protections for parents are needed.

"Now in Florida, we found at least six school districts that had policies to cut parents out of decisions regarding their child's well being and to shield them from knowing about various forms of mental health services, Broward, Hillsborough, Miami Dade, Palm Beach, Sarasota, and Volusia counties," he said.

"Martin County also had a gender transition plan that can be implemented without the parents' consent," he added.

The legislation has drawn intense criticism from LGBTQ advocates, students, national Democrats, the White House, and the entertainment industry, amid increased attention on Florida as Republicans push culture war legislation and DeSantis ascends in the GOP as a potential 2024 presidential candidate.

Republican Rep. Joe Harding, who sponsored the measure, and other GOP lawmakers in Florida have argued that parents should be broaching these subjects with their children, rather than educators. It would not bar spontaneous discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools but instead is intended to prevent districts from integrating the subjects into official curriculum, Harding and supporters have said.

Some argue the bill is a moot point because sexuality is not a part of the K-3rd grade curriculum.

Critics argue the bill marginalizes LGBTQ people. And LGBTQ students like Felix Francis say bill will cause more harm than good.

"This bill is entirely about the youth, and we need to realize that this is going to put them that far worse than what they're intending," Francis said.

Francis is particularly concerned about students being outed to their parents prematurely, and adds lawmakers are not looking at the full picture

"Their perspective is not fully encompassing those who have a different experience than them," said Francis. "As a trans person myself, I calmly and respectfully urge them to reconsider."

Democrats have said the bill's language, particularly the phrases "classroom instruction" and "age appropriate," could be interpreted broadly enough that discussion in any grade could trigger lawsuits from parents and therefore could create a classroom atmosphere where teachers would avoid the subjects.

Statewide, the bill has sparked a swell of protests and student walkouts.

The Walt Disney Company, one of the largest employers in the state, issued the following statement

"Florida's HB 1557, also known as the 'Don't Say Gay' bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law. Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country."

Disney, a powerful player in Florida politics, has suspended its political donations in the state.

"I don't care what corporate media outlets say. I don't care what Hollywood says. I don't care what the corporations say. Here I stand, I'm not backing down," said DeSantis.

The White House, which has sparred frequently with DeSantis over a wide range of policy, had previously criticized the measure and President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has called it "hateful."

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