Florida’s Board of Education approves rule changes related to the expansion of “Don’t Say Gay”

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School building. By littleny via iStock for WMNF News.

The State Board of Education on Wednesday approved changes to a rule to help carry out a controversial new law that expanded a prohibition on instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.

Board members approved an update to a rule that guides “principles of professional conduct” for teachers.

The revised rule came after Gov. Ron DeSantis and lawmakers this spring approved a law that prohibits instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

Previously such instruction was barred in kindergarten through third grade.

The revised rule also will require teachers to follow a prohibition on such instruction in high school unless lessons are required by state academic standards or are “part of a reproductive health course or health lesson for which a student’s parent has the option to have his or her student not attend.”

Educators could face suspension or revocation of their teaching certificates for violating the rule.

The new law (HB 1069) also limits the way teachers and students can use preferred pronouns in schools. For example, it bars teachers and other school employees from telling students their preferred pronouns. Teachers also cannot ask students about their preferred pronouns.

The revised rule requires teachers to follow that part of the law. Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. praised the rule before it was approved by the board.

“We are fortunate to live in a state that is not forcing our students and teachers to recognize an individual’s pronouns in a classroom setting that is opposite of the individual’s biological sex at birth,” Diaz said.

But Jennifer Solomon, who is with the LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality Florida, criticized the rule.

“I chose to raise my family here for the excellent schools and community where they would be safe. These policies and laws are chipping away at that safe feeling and putting my children at risk,” Solomon said.

The rule also is designed to help carry out a new law aimed at requiring students to use bathrooms that line up with their sex assigned at birth.

The new law is an extension of the law that critics call “Don’t Say Gay.”

©2023 The News Service of Florida

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