The Phoenix Flyer

Expansion: GOP to ban instruction in ‘sexual orientation or gender identity’ in PreK to 8th grade

By: - May 2, 2023 4:57 pm

From the 5th floor of the Capitol building, you can see protesters below. They are waiting to discuss HB 1557 in the Senate. The bill has been called, “Don’t Say Gay.” March 7, 2022. Credit: Danielle J. Brown

GOP lawmakers are pushing to expand a ban on “sexual orientation or gender identity” in Florida’s public schools — this time in grades PreK through 8th grade. It’s essentially Part 2 of a ban that occurred last year, with kindergarten through 3rd grade, and was dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

That 2022 legislation was actually titled “Parental Rights in Education Act,” but “Don’t Say Gay” stuck.

Now, with the final week of the legislative session winding down, Republicans are moving quickly to expand such classroom instruction through 8th grade. The state Senate on Tuesday discussed the legislation and likely will approve it in the next few days.

Keep in mind that there’s actually a Part 3 to this: The state Board of Education, in the form of a rule, just recently approved a ban on classroom instruction in sexual orientation or gender identity in grades 4 through 12. That would bring all grades into the mix starting from PreK to 12th grade, according to the language in the rule.

That said, in the state Senate on Tuesday, Republican sponsor Clay Yarborough, of Northeast Florida, focused only on the PreK to 8th grade legislation that could become law if Gov. Ron DeSantis signs it.

The debate on Tuesday was often tense, particularly when Democrat Jason Pizzo, representing parts of Broward and Miami-Dade, asked why “sexual orientation” doesn’t have a definition in the bill.

When Pizzo asked about the definition, Yarborough said that sexual orientation appears to represent a mix of self-identification, attractions and behaviors.

When Pizzo asked about where Yarborough got that information, he simply did his own research.

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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.