Florida school districts navigate ambiguous language of newly signed Parental Rights in Education law

Florida Gov. DeSantis signs controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill into law

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 1557 into law on Monday, school districts were placed in a legally precarious position as the law allows for parents to sue the district if they believe the arguably vague language in the bill was violated.

The law, officially named the Parental Rights in Education Bill and dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics, 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.”

The ambiguous phrases, “age-appropriate” and “developmentally appropriate” leave many school staff members nervous, as the terms can carry wildly different interpretations depending on the family, the school administration, district leadership and the make-up of the state board of education.

While the law is likely to face legal challenges, it has already garnered backlash from progressive organizations and major corporations.

Before the bill’s signing, News4JAX asked local school districts how they planned to comply with the law and what (if anything) in their curricula will change.

In response, a spokesperson from Duval County Public Schools said on Wednesday, “at this time, we are awaiting technical guidance from the Florida Department of Education.”

“We are monitoring the legislation and will proceed with implementing the requirements if and when it receives final approval,” a spokesperson from St. Johns County Public Schools told News4JAX on Thursday.

A representative of Clay County Public Schools said on Wednesday:

“Many of the stipulations outlined in the Parental Rights in Education bill have been in place in Clay County District Schools as a matter of policy and procedure. District leaders have been discussing the impacts of the then-proposed legislation and how they would impact the schools, and now the district is working to ensure all additional facets of it are met. District leaders feel parental partnership is important to student success and they look forward to continuing that relationship with families.”

After Monday’s signing, News4JAX contacted the Florida Department of Education, requesting any and all “technical guidance” for the law that will be disseminated to school districts.

About the Author:

Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.