Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his administration are proposing an expansion of a law nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” law that prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in the state. The proposed expansion would extend the ban on classroom instruction on the topics to grades 4-12, unless it is expressly required by state academic standards or part of a reproductive health course which a parent has the option to opt out of. The current law already prohibits such teaching to students in pre-K to third grade.
The proposal does not require legislative approval and is set to be voted on by the state Board of Education next month. This move has received support from conservatives but has been criticized by others as a move that stifles free speech and targets the LGBTQ community.
Governor DeSantis is seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2024 and has been tapping into cultural issues, including questions of identity and sexual orientation. Republicans have also sought to take control of the narrative on education, with established and potential presidential hopefuls seeking to outdo each other with education policies.
However, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley criticized the DeSantis maneuver as not going “far enough” and suggested that discussions about gender should not be allowed before the third grade. This has caused concern among some groups who argue that young children should be taught about diversity and inclusion from an early age.
Supporters of the proposed expansion argue that it is necessary to protect children from being exposed to topics that are inappropriate for their age group. They argue that parents should have the right to decide when and how their children learn about sensitive topics, and that teachers should not be allowed to promote any particular political or social agenda in the classroom.