The Florida Senate has passed the "Parental Rights in Education" bill, known by critics as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, despite staunch criticism from Democratic lawmakers and LGBTQ+ advocates. The bill passed Florida's Republican-controlled Senate 22-17 Tuesday and will now make its way to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis.
Under its final wording,teachers and school districts from discussing gender identity and topics surrounding sexuality in the classroom from kindergarten through the third grade, with the goal of reinforcing the "fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding upbringing and control of their children."
DeSantis has been a strong, which he says will protect younger students from receiving information that is not age-appropriate.
"We are going to make sure parents are able to send their kids to kindergarten without having some of this stuff injected into their school curriculum," DeSantis said at a press conference Monday.
Once signed by DeSantis, the bill will go into effect for the 2022-2023 school year.
"We want the focus to be on those basic, fundamental things," said Republican State Representative Joe Harding, who sponsored the bill. "The reading, the writing, the math. And when discussions come up as a dad of four kids, children ask questions. Discussions are going to come up. We can't ban a conversation. We can't ban a discussion. That's not what we're doing."
The bill has faced heavy criticism since its introduction, with LGBTQ+ advocates saying the bill will actively harm LGBTQ+ children and kids with LGBTQ+ parents. President Biden has also criticized the legislation, calling the bill "hateful" to the LGBTQ+ community.
"Leaders in Florida are prioritizing hateful bills that hurt some of the students most in need," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Tuesday. "The Department of Education has made clear that all schools receiving federal funding must follow federal civil rights law, including Title IX's protections against discrimination based on 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."
Across Florida, dozens of middle and high schools staged walkouts over the bill. A 2019 survey from The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), deemed Florida's school climate "not safe" for LGBTQ+ students, due in part to a lack of access to LGBTQ+-inclusive curriculum and supportive school policies.
"The Florida state legislature is playing a dangerous political game with the health and safety of LGBTQ+ kids. Cathryn M. Oakley, State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, said Tuesday. "The existence of LGBTQ+ people across Florida is not up for debate. We are proud parents, students, and teachers, and LGBTQ+ people deserve to exist boldly, just like everyone else."
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