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What’s Really in the Parental Rights in Education Bill

Photo courtesy of @GovRonDeSantis on Twitter.

It’s the most controversial piece of legislation in recent Florida history. The Parental Rights in Education bill, better known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay bill’ by those who oppose it, has driven apart factions of Floridians and become a national lightning rod of attention to the state. The bill passed the state legislature with fierce debate, and was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday.

Proponents of the act would tell you it’s a way to prevent K-3 students from having to hear about sex in the classroom. Opponents herald it as a prohibition of LGBTQ+ discussion in an age group which might need it. The bill isn’t both things, and it’s hard to know who to trust if you haven’t actually read the bill.

So above all else, it’s important to read the text of the Parental Rights in Education bill. The whole thing is available in PDF form, from the State Senate’s web portal. If you want to know what’s inside it, there’s no better way than to read it firsthand.

The first portion of the bill which has LGBTQ+ allies up in arms reads:

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“prohibiting classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels or in a specified manner.”

‘Certain grade levels’ has been defined in the bill as kindergarten through third grade. The objection states that making mention of same-sex couples in educational contexts is a necessary component for K-3 students to develop an accurate understanding of their society. ‘Sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ are not defined in the bill, and the state legislature vetoed an amendment which would’ve established exactly what they mean.

In standard practice, ‘sexual orientation’ refers to which genders an individual finds romantic interest in, and ‘gender identity’ refers to whether an individual prefers to be referred to as male, female, non-binary, or other denotation of gender.

Additionally, students who experience parental abuse relating to sexual orientation or gender identity may now no longer have their teachers as a possible resource for support without action by the district authorizing it.

Another section which has drawn scrutiny reads:

“Authorizing a parent to bring an action against a school district to obtain a declaratory judgment that a school district procedure or practice violates certain provisions of law.”

This portion has drawn objections on the basis that it empowers parents too much to interfere in the classroom without the legitimate basis to do so. Others celebrate this passage as a new resource for parents to ensure ethical practice by educators with their children.

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Another portion repeats something similar to what was outlined in the first:

“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.”

This largely touches on the same concepts mentioned earlier, whether sexual orientation and gender identity are necessary topics of discussion in K-3 grades. Soon following that part:

“At the beginning of the school year, each school district shall notify parents of each healthcare service offered at their student’s school and the option to withhold consent or decline any specific service. Parental consent to a health care service does not waive the parent’s right to access his or her student’s educational or health records or to be notified about a change in his or her student’s services or monitoring as provided by this paragraph.”

This concept, which is touched on multiple times in the bill, gives parents increased access to health decisions made regarding their students in Florida schools. It does not define what sorts of health decisions might fall under this umbrella.

There are other implications of the bill which aren’t the cause of as much discussion as the ones outlined here; those can be reviewed within the full text of the bill.

The Parental Rights in Education bill makes no prohibition against the discussion of sex or sexuality around K-3 students as is commonly claimed (again, check the bill for verification). An amendment was made by a Republican state legislator to include this provision, but the majority of his own party vetoed including it within the bill.

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The most controversial effect of the bill is to prohibit discussion of matters involving sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom. It is unknown if, in practice, this will also include discussion about heterosexual orientation and what that would mean for commonly-held discussions in classrooms already. If the discussion of same-sex couples in an entirely unsexual context is to be interpreted as banned under this law, it’s unclear if an unsexual discussion of heterosexual couples would also be banned.

The law will take effect on July 1st of this year. It’s set to endure a set of legal challenges by pro-LGBTQ+ groups along the line, which represent the last hope for such communities that the bill would be struck down.

One last time, if you haven’t read it, here’s a link to read the entire Parental Rights in Education bill.

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Written By

Chris Gollon is a Flagler County resident since 2004, as well as a staple of the local independent music scene and avid observer of Central Florida politics, arts, and recreation.

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Jeff

    March 31, 2022 at 10:20 am

    When people say it empowers parents too much, you know something is wrong. There is no such thing as empowering parents in the class room too much. Parents should and do have ALL of the POWER over THEIR children.

    • Tom H

      March 31, 2022 at 12:39 pm

      This mindset is how kids grow up hating their parents. Maybe YOU can be trusted with that kind of access but kids with abusive parents need an escape from it. When a kid turns up killing themselves because his parents would shun him and his teachers weren’t allowed to help him, it’s the fault of Ron DeSantis and this control-freak attitude from parents

    • Greg Lovekamp

      April 1, 2022 at 11:08 am

      No, a classroom cannot meet the desires of each parent individually. That is why elected school boards exist; they represent the views of the parents and community. Just like we don’t individually vote on bills in Congress, we have a representative who represents our views. Getting every parent trying to dictate education is a recipe for disaster. If you don’t like the public school, the ARE other options.

      • Carlos

        April 2, 2022 at 9:07 pm

        I agree 100% and that goes both ways!

    • juliet

      April 2, 2022 at 12:37 pm

      then homeschool them

      • Mr Ribeye

        April 22, 2022 at 5:34 pm

        Absolutely 💯

  2. Carlos Rangel

    April 1, 2022 at 7:21 pm

    Frankly this bill is offensive to every elementary school teacher. This bill wrongly implies that qualified teachers do not have the common sense to avoid talk of sexually with children. Weather it be heterosexual or not.
    This is just a far right campaign to search out villains that don’t exist. Is you really want an education that is ultra conservative then enroll your child in a religious school.

    • Dee

      April 3, 2022 at 5:47 pm

      Completely agree with you Carlos! This bill disgusts me. Hope it’s stuck down in court.

    • Adam

      April 3, 2022 at 11:49 pm

      Not every teacher does have that common sense, just watch this interview with a florida kindergarten teacher:
      https://www.msnbc.com/jose-diaz-balart/watch/florida-teacher-speaks-about-passage-of-don-t-say-gay-bill-136493637562
      This teacher wants to talk about his weekend with his partner but supposedly wouldn’t be able to do so because he would then HAVE to explain something related to gender identity or orientation; however the bill prevents classroom discussions of these topics. From my perspective it seems like he just wants to groom those children as he could still talk about his weekend with his partner and “develop community relationships” without necessarily mentioning gender identity or orientation.

      Oh and the bill doesn’t even prevent private conversations about these topics. It only prevents teachers from telling the students to not tell their parents about the conversations… so their discussion isn’t even banned and the bill is honestly just a half measure.

      • Karen B

        April 4, 2022 at 7:05 pm

        …but I’m a heterosexual teacher and openly talk about my family (husband included) when my kids ask. How is that any different than a gay teacher doing the same?

        If you don’t want gay teachers in the classroom, maybe that should be your argument.

        • Brandon

          April 23, 2022 at 9:39 pm

          That’s not the conservative argument because that’s not what conservatives want. A gay teacher isn’t prohibited from talking to his class about his husband. He is however prohibited from explaining to any students 3rd grade or under why he has a husband instead of a wife. If such a question arises, the bill requires the teacher to instruct the student to ask their parent, as they should.

    • Jon

      April 4, 2022 at 6:52 am

      Most Elementary school teachers do not want to discuss sexual orientation with k-3 year old students!! It’s not their job to do so. If an abusive situation arrives, then it’s directed to the trained school counselor. Teachers are already over worked and underpaid, we don’t need to discuss sexuality with our young students, it’s not my job!

    • Sammy

      April 4, 2022 at 8:51 am

      These villains do exist, only like many villains they believe they are doing good and it’s not even intended by them to do harm. I’ve watched sample videos from educational resources, like full on animated videos, to teach elementary students about gender identity issues for example. The problem is that kids of this age are so highly impressionable that teaching them how Charles doesn’t feel quite right (in girl clothes) then comes out of a changing area as Charlotte and feels happy, which is depicted in a video I’ve seen from the American School Health Association, is highly distorting of their perceptual lens of the world.

      A condition which affects less than 2% of people is depicted as something to try out if you’re not feeling happy with yourself. It’s not just promoting tolerance & inclusion; it’s brainwashing children toward this as a fix for not feeling comfortable with themselves. I was a sensitive boy who felt depressed as a child but if I had been raised with this kind of instruction from teachers I trusted I might have been confused into thinking I am meant to be a girl instead, in order to feel more comfortable with my sensitive self, when really I had other issues to deal with.

      • Edith

        April 19, 2022 at 10:52 pm

        Agreed 100%

      • Jean Woodard

        April 21, 2022 at 2:36 pm

        Agreed! There are bad teachers just as there are bad doctors, priests, lawyers, etc. Kids that young dont need to know all about their teacher’s personal life. I personally dont recall even 1 of my teachers discussing their personal life. Stick to reading, writing, math, history, etc. Teachers are educators not “friends.”

    • Eric

      April 19, 2022 at 9:57 pm

      I am a gay male with two kids. Teachers or anyone discussing sexual orientation with k to 3rd grade seems inappropriate to me. This should be the parents role NOT the teachers. People on the left and right have bias, even teachers. I want to explain what makes people different myself. Can we get back to common sense in America?!?

      • Jane

        May 7, 2022 at 4:27 pm

        Bravo. Well said.

  3. Bill Malik

    April 5, 2022 at 6:40 am

    The point that people don’t get is that children in America aren’t being taught to perform at their grade level. Do we have extra time to focus on sexual proclivities with young children when they are already falling behind in reading and math? This bill doesn’t prevent teachers from focusing on education. It does prevent teachers from hiding facts from parents however.

  4. Merrill

    April 5, 2022 at 3:56 pm

    Missing from this article is any explanation of what makes legislators in Tallahassee think they know more about our students here in Flagler County than teachers who spend five hours each day, five days a week, 180 days each year with them? Isn’t this an unusual display of gall and hubris? It would be interesting to note the qualifications of those very same legislators. Let’s hear about this bill’s sponsor’s credentials in the fields of education, child development, psychology.

    • Brandon

      April 23, 2022 at 10:10 pm

      Yes, your comment is an unusual display of gall and hubris. As it turns out, this bill affects the entirety of Florida, not just Flagler. They’re representing the parents of those students who absolutely have a more vested interest in then than some random person that teaches them in groups of 20+ for 8-9 months of their lives.

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