The Florida House of Representatives on Thursday passed the Parental Rights in Education bill, which would prohibit classroom discussion regarding sexual orientation or gender identity in Florida’s primary schools. The legislation passed by a 69-47 vote.
The bill prohibits instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. In other grade levels, the bill bars discussion that is not “age or developmentally appropriate.” Under the legislation, parents are permitted to sue school districts that do not follow the law.
Rep. Joe Harding introduced the bill and stated that the legislation would not prohibit students from discussing about their LGBTQ families or prohibit classroom discussions about LGBTQ history, such as the 2016 attack on the Pulse nightclub. He explained that the legislation is about “empowering parents” and improving the quality of life for Florida children. He said: “Creating boundaries at an early age of what is appropriate in our schools, when we are funding our schools, is not hate. It’s actually providing boundaries, and it’s fair to our teachers and our school districts to know what we expect.”
Supporters of the bill argue that discussions of sexuality may have a negative impact on students’ mental and physical health and well-being. The bill and its sponsors state the bill’s goal is to “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children.”
Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith asserted that the LGBTQ community in Florida is “in distress because this bill is yet another attack on [the LGBTQ] community. This bill goes way beyond the text on its page. It sends a terrible message to our youth that there is something so wrong, so inappropriate, so dangerous about this topic that we have to censor it from classroom instruction.”
Other critics argue that the bill may harm LGBTQ youths in Florida, as the Trevor Project found that LGBTQ youths who reported having at least one LGBTQ-affirming space had lower rates of attempting suicide.
President Joe Biden said in a statement regarding the bill: “I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community—especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill—to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are. I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve.”
The legislation will go to Florida’s Republican-held Senate. Governor Ron DeSantis has previously signaled support for the legislation. If passed, the legislation will go into effect for the 2022-2023 school year.