Florida classrooms can discuss sexual orientation and gender after ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law challenged

The rules have been clarified for students and teachers in the state. (Getty)

Students and teachers will be able to speak about sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida after the horrific “Don’t Say Gay” law was legally challenged.

The Parental Rights in Education law, better known as “Don’t Say Gay” for its focus on the LGBTQ+ community, was expanded from the third grade to the eighth grade last year. 

The expansion previously prohibited “classroom instruction to students in pre-kindergarten through grade three on sexual orientation or gender identity”, while for grades four to 12 such discussions were prohibited except when “such instruction is either expressly required by state academic standards” or part of an optional sex education classes. 

But on 11 March, a settlement between Florida education officials and civil rights attorneys challenged the state law. The settlement clarified that the law does not prohibit the discussion of LGBTQ+ people, or prevent anti-bullying rules based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It also does not disallow Gay-Straight Alliance groups in schools. 

The law also does not affect library books not being used for instruction in the classroom. But for books with incidental references to LGBTQ+ characters or same-sex couples, it was ruled in the settlement that “they are not instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity any more than a math problem asking students to add bushels of apples is instruction on apple farming”.

Previously, many LGBTQ+ and civil rights groups have pointed out the legislation is extremely vague, meaning many teachers could become cautious even mentioning they have a same-sex partner or having a rainbow sticker in their classroom, for fear of being sued by parents or losing their job. 

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LGBTQ+ rights group Equality Florida described the previous Don’t Say Gay expansion as an “insatiable lust for government censorship”. 

“Let’s put it plainly: this is part of the governor’s assault on freedom. Free states do not ban books. Free states do not censor entire communities out of the classroom,” a spokesperson for the group wrote. “Free states do not wage war on LGBTQ people to score cheap political points for a man desperate to be POTUS.”

Adding: “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.

“Shame on the DeSantis administration for putting a target on the backs of LGBTQ Floridians.”

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