TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration is moving to forbid classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades, expanding the controversial Parental Rights in Education Act — referred to by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — as the Republican governor continues a focus on cultural issues ahead of his expected presidential run.
The proposal, which would not require legislative approval, is scheduled for a vote next month before the state Board of Education and has been put forth by state Education Department, both of which are led by appointees of the governor.
The rule change would ban lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity from grades 4 to 12, unless required by existing state standards or as part of reproductive health instruction that students can choose not to take. The initial law that DeSantis championed last spring bans those lessons in kindergarten through the third grade. The change was first reported by the Orlando Sentinel.
DeSantis has leaned heavily into cultural divides on his path to an anticipated White House bid, with the Republican aggressively pursuing a conservative agenda that targets what he calls the insertion of inappropriate subjects in schools.
Spokespeople for the governor’s office and the Education Department did not immediately return an emailed request for comment.
Last year's Parental Rights in Education Act drew widespread backlash nationally, with critics saying it marginalizes LGBTQ people and their presence in society.
DeSantis and other Republicans have repeatedly said the measure is reasonable and that parents, not teachers, should be broaching subjects of sexual orientation and gender identity with their children.
Critics of the law say its language — “classroom instruction,” “age appropriate” and “developmentally appropriate” — is overly broad and subject to interpretation. Consequently, teachers might opt to avoid the subjects entirely for fear of being sued, they say.
The law also kicked off a feud between the state and Disney, one of the state's largest employers and political donors, after the entertainment giant publicly opposed the law and said it was pausing political donations in the state.
At the governor’s request, the Republican-dominated Legislature voted to dissolve a self-governing district controlled by Walt Disney World over its properties in Florida, and eventually gave DeSantis control of the board. The move was widely seen as a punishment for the company opposing the law. The board oversees municipal services in Disney’s theme park properties and was instrumental in the company’s decision to build near Orlando in the 1960s.