Florida seems to be something of a trailblazer in terms of inspiring other states to consider legislation limiting conversations in classrooms about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Last month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the “Parental Rights in Education” bill that bans instruction or classroom discussion about sexual issues for public school students in kindergarten through third grade.
“Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade three or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards,” the law states.
The law, however, does contain the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
Back in February, the then-bill prompted President Joe Biden to go on social media to rebuke the Florida measure and its sponsors.
I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community — especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill — to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are. I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve. https://t.co/OcAIMeVpHL
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 8, 2022
Supporters of the law say it prevent “grooming” of children to be open to sexual ideas long before they’re mature enough to consider them — and making them more vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
Is Florida’s bill against sex education for young children a good idea?
The national controversy over the law is not stopping other states from considering legislation containing provisions that mirror the Florida law.
A dozen states have proposed their own bills: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, South Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Ohio.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he will make legislation similar to Florida’s law a top priority during the state’s next legislative session.
Proponents of this type of legislation argue it’s necessary to protect young children from being exposed to such grown-up ideas, while still allowing classroom instruction on sexuality and gender identity in higher grades – that is, at an age-appropriate level.
“We will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination,” DeSantis said at the March 28 bill signing, according to ABC News.
DeSantis’ language was similar to that used by Louisiana state Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, prime sponsor of her state’s House Bill 837, which would ban classroom discussions on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through eighth grade.
“There’s no need for any child to ever know the private life of their educator,” Horton told KSLA-TV. “It’s not prejudice to one group or another. It just doesn’t discuss it at all.”
Critics of Florida’s law – and other proposed laws like it – disagree.
“The institutionalization of these bills is an overt form of structural transphobia and homophobia, and it goes against all public health evidence in creating a safe and supportive environment for transgender, nonbinary, queer, gay and lesbian youths and teachers to thrive,” said Arjee Restar, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington, according to NPR.
She went on to describe these bills as detrimental to the lives of young people, noting “there should be no room for transphobia and homophobia – especially in the classroom.”