JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A divisive Florida law banning schools from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade is likely to face legal challenges.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill into law on Monday, and it will take effect July 1.
Equality Florida has said it will challenge this in court.
The Walt Disney Company, a powerful player in Florida politics, suspended its political donations in the state, and LGBTQ advocates who work for the company criticized CEO Bob Chapek for what they said was his slow response speaking out against the bill. Some walked off the job in protest.
Supporters of the bill say it keeps material that isn’t appropriate for younger students out of the classroom, and the governor said nothing would have stopped him from signing it.
“I don’t care what big corporations say. Here I stand. I’m not backing down,” DeSantis said on Monday.
The legislation has pushed Florida and DeSantis, an ascending Republican and potential 2024 presidential candidate, to the forefront of the country’s culture wars, with LGBTQ advocates, students, Democrats, the entertainment industry and the White House denouncing what critics have called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The bill’s language does not outright ban the use of the word ‘gay’, but it does pump the brakes on sexual education instruction—including the topics of sexual orientation or gender identity in Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
The law states: “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.” Parents would be able to sue districts over violations.
Local attorney Rook Ringer sees problems with the language.
“I mean, the, the way that law is written, is it’s really vague. And that’s another thing” Ringer says. “That’s, that’s a, it’s a constitutional death. Now, when a law is vague, because when it’s when it’s vague, it then becomes very easy to use it for something else.”
The bill’s supporters say the bill gives parents more oversight into what their children see and discuss at school. They also say LGBTQ topics should be kept at home and out of the classroom, but opponents say the bill will only have a negative impact and will remove teachers as lifelines to vulnerable students.
Lakeisha Dorsey, who has a son in fourth grade, believes conversations about nontraditional families are important.
“If nobody talks about it, that gives them the inclination that something’s wrong with it and I don’t think that’s fair to children,” Dorsey said. “There’s a lot of kids who have same sex parents and it’s not necessarily their choice and it’s their dynamic. They shouldn’t be made to feel bad about it.”
President Joe Biden condemned the law and said on Twitter: “Every student deserves to feel safe and welcome in the classroom.”
Last year, DeSantis signed a bill banning transgender students from competing in sports.