The Florida Board of Education voted to expand the scope of a law that was recently passed that prevents the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom. The vote affecting the expansion took place on Wednesday, April 19th.
“This amendment prohibits classroom instruction to students in pre-kindergarten through Grade 3 on sexual orientation or gender identity. For Grades 4 through 12, instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited unless such instruction is either expressly required by state academic standards…or is part of a reproductive health course or health lesson for which a student’s parent has the option to have his or her student not attend,” the amendment to the law says. Gender identity and sexual orientation may only be taught if they form part of an important lesson or if parents agree with the teaching.
This amendment applies to the Parental Rights in Education law that was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis in March 2022. The law initially prevented the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation to kids in pre-K to grade 3 but now it has been expanded to go up until the 12th grade.
Advocates for the amendment to the law have said it is necessary as students should not be learning about sexual orientation and gender identity at school but at home from their parents. It “strengthens the relationship between parents and children by leaving very personal, important conversations within the home between students and their families,” according to a supporter of the amendment.
Alex Lanfranconi, a spokesperson for the Florida Education Department, said in a statement that “the topics of gender identity and sexual orientation have no place in the classroom.” Lanfranconi said that the state of Florida was looking to “uphold parental rights and keep indoctrination out of our schools.”
Laura McGinnis, a member of the LGBTQ advocacy group PFLAG, spoke against the law and raised concerns about the impact the law could have on teachers and students. “Everyone has a sexual orientation and a gender identity. It looks like this rule would make it impossible to do much instruction at all,” McGinnis said to ABC News.
A lot of the complaints regarding the law have been centered on how it may be perceived as an infringement on the right to free speech, how it takes away from teaching the students, and how the law is vague and confusing.
A teacher said that her students tend to ask her questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity because they felt they were in a safe environment to enquire. “Please understand, if students do not get their questions answered either by their trusted teachers or by those parents that are willing to talk with our children, they will likely find the answers from their peers or the internet with dubious safety inaccuracy.”