Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill that will prohibit public schools and third parties from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity with students between kindergarten and the third grade.
House Bill 1557 was signed into law on Monday, with the governor saying in a statement that he considered it a win for parental rights.
The bill also requires school districts to adopt procedures to notify parents about changes affecting their child’s mental, physical and emotional health and prevents school districts from withholding information from parents. The law comes amid concerns that some school districts in the U.S. aren’t informing parents if their child is identifying as the opposite gender or by a new name.
“Parents’ rights have been increasingly under assault around the nation, but in Florida we stand up for the rights of parents and the fundamental role they play in the education of their children,” stated DeSantis.
“Parents have every right to be informed about services offered to their child at school, and should be protected from schools using classroom instruction to sexualize their kids as young as 5 years old.”
The legislation garnered national controversy over a provision stating that schools cannot discuss sexual orientation and gender identity issues under certain circumstances. Opponents have labeled the legislation the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, leading DeSantis to push back on what he considers “false narratives.”
“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,” reads HB 1557, in part.
Many argued that this provision would have harmful consequences, such as barring kids raised by same-sex couples from acknowledging their domestic situation.
Amy Turkel, the interim executive director of the ACLU of Florida, claimed in a statement that the law is unconstitutional because it silences discussions about teachers' and students' LGBT family members and friends.
"Banning talk about parents serves no legitimate educational purpose and in fact, is detrimental to students," Turkel said. "All young people deserve an inclusive and accurate education, free from censorship or discrimination."
The bill was backed by the Florida Family Policy Council, which argues that the bill’s opponents are making “deliberately false allegations about the legislation’s content.”
“This law is necessary because schools have become more concerned with indoctrination than they are with education,” Florida Family Policy Council President John Stemberger said in a statement. “This is not a ‘don’t say gay’ bill. It is a ‘don’t turn my son into a daughter’ bill. Little elementary school kids do not need to be introduced to transgenderism and other radical views of human sexuality that parents find harmful and are not in their children’s best interest.”
Leon County parent January Littlejohn said in a statement shared by the governor’s office that excluding parents from critical decisions affecting their child’s health “sends the message to children that their parent’s input and authority are no longer important.”
When asked about the "Don't Say Gay" narrative earlier this month, DeSantis argued that the mainstream media was “pushing false narratives” about the bill and its intentions.
“The idea that you wouldn’t be honest about that and tell people what it actually says, it’s why people don’t trust people like you because you peddle false narratives,” said DeSantis told a reporter at a press conference.
“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.”
Florida House Democratic Leader Evan Jenne said in a statement that he believes the new law “is nothing but a political distraction designed to raise one man’s profile as he runs for higher office.”
“This new law doesn’t help a single Floridian pay their rent, put food on the table, or afford health care. It does not create a single new job, protect our waters, or solve our growing insurance crisis,” stated Jenne, as quoted by floridapolitics.com.
“The words of the bill sponsors and the Governor’s own staff clearly laid out the real purpose: they don’t like the LGBTQ community, and don’t mind sacrificing their safety to advance their agenda.”