In one of the most-controversial education issues of the 2023 legislative session, the Florida Senate on Wednesday passed a measure that would expand last year’s “Parental Rights in Education” law — known to critics as “don’t say gay.”
The bill, which is ready to go to Gov. Ron DeSantis, also seeks to restrict the way teachers and students can use their preferred pronouns in schools, a provision that has drawn ire from LGBTQ-advocacy groups.
The Republican-controlled Senate voted 27-12 along straight party lines to pass the bill (HB 1069), with Democrats arguing the measure is an effort to “legislate away the gay.” The House voted 77-35 to pass the bill last month. DeSantis is expected to sign it.
Last year’s law bars instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. But the measure approved Wednesday would broaden the prohibition to pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
Senate sponsor Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville, and other bill supporters said it is geared toward protecting children who are “at more impressionable ages” and allowing parents to be in control of such discussions.
“This legislation will protect the rights of parents to have a say in their children’s education and ensure that students are not subjected to inappropriate material,” Yarborough said.
“Teachers should be able to spend their time focusing on skills that help a child succeed in life, not delving into every social issue or being forced to use language that would violate their personal convictions,” Yarborough added.
But Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Davie, said the bill “marginalizes children” and represents an insult to teachers.
“This bill insults the professionalism of educators. It takes away freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom to be treated equally in our public schools,” Book said.
Wednesday’s vote came after the State Board of Education last month approved a rule change that largely prohibited instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades. The rule dealt with an educators’ code of conduct and spelled out that teachers could face suspension or revocation of their educator certificates for violations of the rule.
Speaking to reporters after the bill passed, Yarborough said putting an expanded prohibition into law “establishes a floor.” Rules often can be more easily changed than laws.
“Our bill, if that rule were to change, with the law still in place, the floor would be eighth grade,” Yarborough said.
The bill also would require that it “shall be the policy” of every public school that “a person’s sex is an immutable biological trait and that it is false to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to such person’s sex.”
Teachers and other school employees would be prohibited from telling students their preferred pronouns and would be barred from asking students about their preferred pronouns. Sen. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, characterized the bill as a move toward “common sense.”
“Raising small children in this climate carries with it a lot of challenges today. And you see society coming at our children in a culture war, that it has an agenda to make them confused,” Grall said.
The bill also would build on another controversial 2022 law that increased scrutiny of school-library books and instructional materials. The bill, in part, would take steps to make the process of objecting to books and instructional materials easier.
For example, the bill would require that forms used for objecting to books to be “easy to read and understand” and be readily accessible on school districts’ websites.
In instances where an objection is made based on possible pornographic content or material that “describes sexual conduct,” the bill would require the materials to be removed from schools within five days of the objection and “remain unavailable to students of that school until the objection is resolved.”
Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, described that part of the bill as a “ban-first, review-later” policy.
The Senate debate laid bare a fundamental disagreement between Democrats and Republicans about whether the bill amounts to “disrespect” of LGBTQ youths.
“What we’re doing here is codifying disrespect, just because someone is different than us,” Sen. Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, said.
But Yarborough rebutted Democrats’ arguments.
“This bill is not giving rise to someone being disrespected, because you can love and respect someone as another human being without agreeing with every choice they make or every view they have. We see that every day in the Senate,” Yarborough said.
Polsky, however, said the measure targets LGBTQ people.
“Trans is a fact of life. Gay is a fact of life. You can’t legislate away the gay, as much as you might try,” Polsky said.
Bailey’s Mom says
Florida is fast becoming the home of the Ignorant, racists and religious fanatics.
Soon it will be time to get the Scarlet Letters out of your closet!
Unbelievable…we have to vote these people out of office.
What does it say about us as a nation that we ban books that expand our insights, our perspectives, our understanding and our empathy and yet loosen gun restrictions and rail about the right to bear arms? As though we should replace books with guns.
Another mass shooting today in Atlanta! 25 since January and it’s only May. We really have to look at what we are doing to our own society, especially in Florida!
Let me guess, the next bill will require any person who identifies as LGBQT to wear a pink triangle?
Looks that way. Those homofobic racists with DeSantis leading them will not hesitate.
Michael Cocchiola says
Florida fascism, known as “freedom”, continues to restrict free speech, free choice and freedom to read.
This cursed state deserving of ridicule and avoidance.
Yarborough is a DeSantis go-to fascist puppet in the legislature, one of many. When their bloody anti-democratic reign comes to an end — and it surely will — – people will wonder how such nasty autocratic lowlife came to power. And the answer will not be pretty.
The Sour Kraut says
So we will lose some of our teachers to States that don’t threaten them and we will lose some of our kids to suicide because they feel they are freaks and unwanted. So we are the “free state of Florida”? This is one Republican that will never cast a ballot for him.
I believe it is polite to refer to a person by the name, term, or pronoun that THEY prefer. If a person wishes to be called a particular pronoun, how is it my obligation or even right to question them? Pronouns are just labels. They do not change the unique nature of any person.
I remember the fuss that was made when the International Astronomical Union created a definition of a planet and Pluto didn’t make the cut. Pluto did not change; only the definition changed. So referring to a transgender person by a pronoun (label) which they do not prefer in no way changes them. Pluto is an object that has no feelings and could care less what I or anyone else calls it. People do have feelings and it is appropriate to respect those feelings.
I also look at this “controversy” from a selfish perspective. How am I harmed by calling a person the term that they prefer? It doesn’t seem to harm me in any way. Does the “R” in Republican now just stand for Rude? I am also reminded of Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
JOE D says
I guess the basis of the AMERICAN legal system doesn’t apply to books: Presumed INNOCENT until PROVEN GUILTY, doesn’t apply to BOOKS?!?
You could literally CLOSE every school and publicly funded library by “APPLYING “ to have all their books “BANNED,” knowing it will be MONTHS before the reviews even come up, with the volume of books cited by the insanity of Mothers for Liberty!
FREE SPEECH my eye!!!!
Bill C says
“And you see society coming at our children in a culture war, that it has an agenda to make them confused,” Grall said.” Clearly Grall did not consider his own words! He’s the one who is “coming at our children” by sponsoring this law of suppression. He takes the archaic position that all males and females respectively are born with identical genetic makeup. If that were the case, all males would look like him.
Nice to see the brave politicians of Florida are keeping us safe from the really dangerous things – like pronouns. They really earn their money!!
State representative Jeff Holcomb (R) said recently on the House floor, “Our terrorist enemies hate homosexuals more than we do.” Even if taken out of context, that is a pretty revealing comment.
Protecting kids, parents’ rights—-or hatred? And to whom does the “we” refer?
Enough…children do not go to school to learn or discuss this!! They go to learn math, English, science, etc…
Keep this sh*t at home!!
Just like politics and religion!!!
God forbid I want my students to call me by the right name and title, right? Will I have to prominently display my original birth certificate in my classroom? Will the principal have to see what’s in my pants before hiring me to then tell students to call me “Miss D.”, or can I just walk in and say “my name is Mr. Aves” because that’s what my ID and my passport say?
Tell me, Mr. Rob, how do you feel about that?
He won the governorship. This is what we get. Will see what happens next.
I have an an preferred pronoun for Go-Go Boots DeSantis……….Stupid-Ass !
……my error I apologize…that should be Governor Stupid-Ass.
@Wake the hell up
“Sen. Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville…”
You can fool most of the people
Speaks for itself
Speaks for itself
The majority of the legislature, and executive branch, of Florida — in a nutshell — bag men, lobbyists, and other criminals.
Complete Fascism. . . Brought to you by the brain washed far right of the Republican Party! Being systematically rolled out across every county and city in the state of Florida! VOTE to oust them all!
My question is what is our governor afraid of? He has children who may “come out” some day. What will he do then? Just wondering.