TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (BP) – Sexual orientation and gender identity will be prohibited education topics for kindergarteners through third-graders in Florida public schools, the result of a bill legislators passed March 8.
The Parental Rights in Education Bill, dubbed by the LGBTQ community and other critics as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” also prohibits instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation beyond the third grade “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
Tommy Green, executive director/treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, commended the legislation.
“The Parental Rights Education Bill puts the rights and responsibilities of information and teaching children concerning sexual orientation and gender identity into the hands of the parents of the child,” Green told Baptist Press. “The bill prohibits classroom discussion on these issues particularly from third grade down. We are thankful for the affirmation of the role of parents in this critical time in the lives of children.”
Southern Baptist ethicist Brent Leatherwood agreed.
“Without a doubt, parents should be the ones driving sensitive conversations with their children. This is not something that can be outsourced to the state,” said Leatherwood, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission acting president. “Policies should reflect that principle, particularly as it relates to school personnel interacting with young kids. In fact, more laws should prioritize the protection of children, the empowerment of parents and the support of families.”
Included in a student welfare bill addressing students’ mental, emotional and physical health, the section of the law restricting the topics states, “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.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the legislation that would take effect July 1.
“We’re going to make sure that parents are able to send their kid to kindergarten without having some of this stuff injected into their school curriculum,” DeSantis said at a March 5 press conference at the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City.
The Florida bill establishes a review process and allows parents to seek injunctive relief and financial judgments in court.
The bill is the latest among bills in the U.S. addressing LGBTQ-identity instruction, including active bills in Tennessee and Oklahoma. The Tennessee bill, referred to the Rules Committee March 8, would ban “textbooks and instructional materials or supplemental instructional materials that promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender (LGBT) issues or lifestyles,” according to the bill summary at capitol.tn.gov.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill in May of 2021 that requires advance parental notice before sexual orientation and gender identity are taught in public and charter schools, and allows parents to exclude their children after such notices are received. The Tennessee bill became effective May 5.
In Oklahoma, active bills would criminalize text and library books that have as their primary subject “the study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, or gender identity or books that are of a sexual nature;” and criminalize instruction that goes against a student’s religious beliefs, with a minimum fine of $10,000. The legislation – Senate Bill 1654 and Senate Bill 1470 – was referred to the Education Committee March 8, according to OKLegislature.gov.
Similar legislation limiting sexual orientation education failed in the current Kansas legislative session.