US state bans teaching of gender ideology
Florida’s new law restricting the teaching of sexuality and gender ideology to public school students in grades kindergarten through three has taken effect as of Friday.
The Parental Rights in Education Act – dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law by its detractors – prohibits instructing children on sexual orientation and gender issues in ways that are not “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” The bill’s text describes it as an effort to “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children.”
The controversial legislation allows parents to sue school districts they believe have violated the guidelines, and requires parental consent for the school to administer health services or health screening questionnaires to students in those same grades.
It also prohibits schools from adopting policies that would prevent parents from learning of “critical decisions affecting a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being” – a requirement that has been interpreted as requiring teachers to ‘out’ their LGBT students to their parents.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law in March. Parental concern over schools’ interference in children’s sexual development has reached a fever pitch in the last few years, with many parents upset over what they view as explicit sexual education curricula targeting young kids and extracurricular activities like ‘drag queen story hours’ seen as promoting LGBT lifestyles to children too young to understand them.
While the move has been praised by conservative groups and parents’ rights organizations, the American Federation of Teachers has accused the governor of participating in a “smear campaign” against its members, arguing political campaigns like the movement to ban gender ideology and critical race theory from schools are “intended to create distrust” between parents and teachers.
President Joe Biden also denounced the bill on Friday, declaring that “legislators shouldn’t be in the business of censoring educators,” and vowing that his administration would do “all in its power to protect students.”
Also taking effect on July 1 was the Individual Freedom Act, which places limits on how teachers can address the concepts of ‘systemic racism’ and ‘white supremacism’ in the classroom.