TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida House lawmakers are moving forward with the Parental Rights in Education bill, more commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill – just not the version that put the Sunshine State in the national spotlight again.
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Critics said the original version of the bill effectively banned discussion about gender identity and sexuality in classrooms, even innocent discussions about a student’s two mothers or fathers, and let anti-gay parents control entire classrooms. They also said it would lead to teachers being forced to “out” students to their parents.
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A series of adjustments have been made to the proposal, which mirrored a similar bill working its way through the State Senate, in an apparent effort to address some concerns brought by LGBT activists and other critics who have passionately spoken about the potential to drive more kids toward suicide.
The new version of the bill adds language that clarifies discussion in classrooms is only banned if it deviates from the class curriculum. It specifies the age range of the outright ban to kids in kindergarten through third grade.
It also relaxed the language around older students. Previously, it banned discussion that wasn’t “age appropriate,” without defining what that meant. The new version ties those words to state standards.
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The new bill adds two sections, allowing parents to opt out of a list of health services the district offers and allowing parents to review all health questionnaires before they are given to students.
Finally, in a minor, but not insignificant tweak, the new proposal further clarifies that school districts are allowed to create policies that hide information from parents if staff members believe it would lead to abuse or neglect.
While the old version of the bill included a similar allowance, the change provides districts with more room to ensure LGBTQ+ students can discuss their feelings with staff members without fear of being “outed.”
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However, the changes haven’t had their desired effect, with Democrats throughout the state still vehemently opposed to the bill.
“These same activists called for prayer in school, said we threatened their marriages, and called LGBTQ families dangerous ‘social experiments,’” former state rep. and gay rights activist Joe Saunders tweeted, addressing the bill’s supporters. “This is who this bill panders too [sic].”
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