U.S. Department of Education warns Florida after Legislature passes the “Don’t Say Gay” bill

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Demonstrators gather on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in front of the Florida State Capitol, Monday, March 7, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida House Republicans advanced a bill, dubbed by opponents as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, to forbid discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, rejecting criticism from Democrats who said the proposal demonizes LGBTQ people. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

On Tuesday the Florida Senate passed a bill that would forbid schools from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Supporters call it the Parental Rights in Education bill. Opponents call it “Don’t Say Gay” and warn that it may marginalize at-risk students.

The bill passed 22-17, mostly along party lines. But two Republican Senators — Jennifer Bradley and Jeff Brandes — voted against the bill. Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign HB 1557 into law.

Response by Department of Education

In response, the U.S. Department of Education issued a statement on its website. In it, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona accused Florida leaders of “prioritizing hateful bills that hurt some of the students most in need.”

Cordona went on to say that “all schools receiving federal funding must follow federal civil rights law, including Title IX’s protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Cordona’s full statement

“Parents across the country are looking to national, state, and district leaders to support our nation’s students, help them recover from the pandemic, and provide them the academic and mental health supports they need. Instead, leaders in Florida are prioritizing hateful bills that hurt some of the students most in need. The Department of Education has made clear that all schools receiving federal funding must follow federal civil rights law, including Title IX’s protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We stand with our LGBTQ+ students in Florida and across the country, and urge Florida leaders to make sure all their students are protected and supported.”

– U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona

The bill passed despite weeks of protests by students and others against the bill.

Blake High School freshman Scout Pytlak participated in one such demonstration at their Tampa school last week. On WMNF’s Tuesday Cafe Pytlak said the bill “will only create more ignorance about a community that receives so much hatred and discrimination as it is.”

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