The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) on Wednesday approved an expansion of the state’s controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.
The law, part of the Florida Administrative Code, Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession in Florida, previously prohibited any intentional instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity to students in kindergarten through 3rd grade. The approved amendments expand the rule to include students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. The new rule does feature an exemption—applicable to students in 4th through 12th grade—who learn about sexuality as part of a state requirement or health education course. Relatedly, a student’s parent may remove a child from any course they deem inappropriate.
The original rule faced criticism from LGBTQ+ advocates who argued it could lead to discrimination and stigmatization of LGBTQ+ students. A 2022 lawsuit challenging its validity was filed by Equality Florida and Family Equality. The lawsuit alleged that: “This effort to control young minds through state censorship – and to demean LGBTQ lives by denying their reality – is a grave abuse of power.” The United States District Court Middle District of Florida dismissed the lawsuit citing a lack of standing and a failure to prove harm. The organizations filed an appeal in March.
Critics raised additional concerns the “broad language” of the rule could implicate discussions of human sexuality in any grade. The expansion to all grades appears to validate those concerns.
However, Florida officials have vigorously defended the law. In his public signing of the original law, Governor Ron DeSantis commented that schools should be focusing on “math, science, and reading.” He further stated that his law is about what is “appropriate for children” to be learning at a young age.