Florida board approves expansion of ‘don’t say gay’ ban to all school grades

Florida’s board of education has approved the expansion of the state’s so-called “don’t say gay” bill, which now prohibits discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity at school across all grade levels.

Wednesday’s approval came at the request of the Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, who in the past two years has waged what critics call a “culture war” across the state through his bans on gender-affirming care, Covid-19 precautionary measures and abortion rights, among other facets.

According to an education department spokesperson, the proposal will take effect after a procedural notice period that lasts about a month, the Associated Press reports.

The rule states that Florida educators “shall not intentionally provide classroom instruction to students in grades four through 12 on sexual orientation or gender identity 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.”

Previously, the Parental Rights in Education law focused on banning classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity only from kindergarten through third grade.

Parents are allowed to sue school districts over violations and educators who violate the ban risk having their licenses revoked.

The expansion is a part of a series of anti-LGBTQ+ being proposed in Florida, including a ban on gender affirming care that would allow the state to take “emergency” custody of a child whose parents allow them access to such care.

Other bans include curtailing drag performances, banning pride flags from public buildings, as well as removing college majors and minors on gender studies and critical race theory, among other similar disciplines.

In a statement to the Associated Press, Florida’s education commissioner, Manny Diaz Jr, said: “We’re not removing anything here. All we are doing is we are setting the expectations so our teachers are clear: that they are to teach to the standards.”

As a result of DeSantis’s “don’t say gay” bill and his culture war against “wokeness”, the governor, who is widely expected to launch his 2024 presidential run, has found himself going head to head with Disney, one of the state’s largest private employers.

Last month, Disney pushed back against DeSantis’s crackdown on LGBTQ+ rights by announcing its plans to host a major LGBTQ+ conference at Walt Disney World in Orlando. The announcement was widely regarded as a defiant response to DeSantis who assumed new powers in February that allow him to appoint members of the development board that supervises the theme park and its self-governing district.