The Florida Board of Education proposed a rule Wednesday to expand the state’s parental rights law to cover grades four through 12.
DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education Act bill on March 28, 2022, prohibiting classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and mandating that discussions of those topics in later grades be “age-appropriate.” The legislation further requires that educators inform parents of any changes to a student’s physical, mental or emotional health, including a stated desire to socially transition.
The new proposal suggests expanding this ban on classroom instruction on gender and sexuality to the remaining grade levels unless those discussions are part of a state-approved curriculum or a “reproductive health course or health lesson” that parents can opt their children out of.
“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 proposal reads.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre condemned the possible expansion at Wednesday’s press briefing.
“It’s wrong. It’s completely, utterly wrong and we’ve been very crystal clear about that, when it comes to the Don’t Say Gay bill and other actions that this governor has taken in the state of Florida,” Jean-Pierre said. “But make no mistake, this is part of a disturbing and dangerous trend that we’re seeing across the country of legislations that are anti-LGBTQI+, anti-trans and anti-the community in a way that we have not seen in some time. And it’s not just the LGBTQI+ community, we’re talking about students, we’re talking about educators, we’re talking about just individuals.”
She also vowed that the White House will “fight for the dignity” of LGBTQ students. (RELATED: Jean-Pierre Says DeSantis’ Ban Of CRT-Related Curriculum ‘Incomprehensible’)
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley has argued the current parental rights law does not “go far enough,” and argued that sex education should be banned until at least seventh grade and require permission slips from parents or guardians.
“Basically, what it said was you shouldn’t be able to talk about gender before third grade,” Haley said. “I’m sorry. I don’t think that goes far enough. When I was in school you didn’t have sex-ed until seventh grade. And even then, your parents had to sign whether you could take the class. That’s a decision for parents to make.”
“If you are an office holder and you are just sitting there twiddling your thumbs and not getting anything done, no one ever says anything. You can kind of just fly under the radar,” DeSantis said in response to Haley’s criticism. “But when you’re out there leading, when you are out there setting the agenda, not just for Florida, but for the nation, which we have done over the last few years, people see that, and people that don’t necessarily like that are going to respond accordingly. But I can tell you, if people are not firing me, I must be doing my job. So I view really as positive feedback.”
The proposal followed the introduction of Republican Florida state Rep. Adam Anderson’s February bill, which would expand the existing ban on classroom instruction on gender and sexuality through eighth grade.