It’s been less than two months since Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, aka the “Don’t Say Gay law,” went into effect, and the damage keeps growing. On Wednesday, Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. instructed his staff to “pull” LGBTQ support documents from every school district in the state.
The move came after State Board of Education member Ryan Petty argued that some of the documents could violate state law.
The Don’t Say Gay bill was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis (above) in March. Proponents of the legislation claimed its purpose was to shield young students from conversations about LGBTQ topics deemed “not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” Many argued the sole focus would be to limit early sex education. Critics condemned the vague language, fearing a door would open for varying interpretations that would directly harm LGBTQ students.
It went into effect on July 1, prompting some school districts to quickly roll out dangerous new policies like instructing teachers to remove signage indicating a classroom is a “safe space” for LGBTQ students and photos of their families if they have a same-sex spouse.
In Sarasota County, teachers were told that “if a student tells us that (they) are gay/gender questioning/trans, etc, parent must be notified.”
Petty cited “grave concerns” about some LGBTQ support guides, like the one in Hillsborough County that says it’s inappropriate for teachers “to divulge the sexual orientation of a student to a parent” unless there is “imminent fear of physical harm.”
He asked the state’s Department of Education to pull all support guides to conduct a “review, by this board, to ensure compliance with state law and department regulation.” Education Commissioner Diaz approved the request.
Brandon Wolf, the press secretary for LGBTQ-advocacy organization Equality Florida, called the action another example of Gov. DeSantis’ “cynical weaponization of state agencies” against LGBTQ youth.
“Across the state, districts have spent years working alongside their communities to create more inclusive school environments, implementing nationally recognized best practices for supporting all students. Now, the governor is politicizing those resources for the purpose of bolstering his election year bona fides. School districts routinely review and update these resources to remain in compliance with all applicable laws and provide the best possible support for students,” Wolf said in a statement to The News Service of Florida.
“Equality Florida’s grave concern is for the protection of LGBTQ students. The Department of Education’s record on these issues has demonstrated clear hostility toward those protections,” Wolf’s statement added.
More than a dozen other states including Ohio and Louisiana have introduced legislation that mimics Florida’s law.