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Florida rule would expand so-called 'don't say gay' to 12th grade

Leslie Postal, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in News & Features

ORLANDO, Fla. — The DeSantis administration next month could effectively bar all public school teachers from providing classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity, a move that would expand Florida’s controversial 2022 law and go even further than the legislation Republican lawmakers are pushing in Tallahassee this spring.

A proposed State Board of Education rule, scheduled for a vote next month, says teachers in grades 4 to 12 “shall not intentionally provide classroom instruction” on either topic, expanding the prohibition in last year’s law that critics dubbed “don’t say gay.” Teachers who violate the rule could face suspension or revocation of their teaching licenses.

Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, views the suggested rule as part of “larger, disturbing trend” where Florida’s Republican leaders seek to use “every lever of government to censor conversations about LGBTQ people,” said Brandon Wolf, the group’s spokesman.

The goal, he said, seems to be to paint LGBTQ people as “wrong,” Wolf said, “or that we should be written out of society.”

The Florida Department of Education, overseen in part by the State Board, did not respond to emailed questions about the proposed rule, slated to be voted on April 19.

Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, the department’s top administrator, signed off on it, documents show.


The seven-member board is made up of appointees of Gov. Ron DeSantis or former GOP Gov. Rick Scott. The board officially hired Diaz, a former Republican lawmaker from Miami-Dade County, but he was picked for the job by DeSantis last spring.

The law passed by the Legislature and signed by DeSantis last year — officially titled the Parental Rights in Education law — bars instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, a move supporters say upholds the rights of parents to decide when and how to introduce sensitive topics with their children.

GOP lawmakers this year want to expand that prohibition so that it applies to pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade classes, and they also want to prohibit school employees from referring to students by pronouns other than those that match their sex at birth.

“Parents have the right and God-given responsibility to guide their children’s upbringing,” said Sen. Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville, and sponsor of the Senate legislation (SB 1320), during a committee hearing Monday.


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