Over the past several weeks, the Florida Legislature has passed two hotly contested education reform bills. Most notably, it approved the Parental Rights in Education Bill (HB 1557) and the Individual Freedom Bill (HB 7) regarding educational instruction and workplace policies in the state of Florida. Left-leaning organizations have labeled HB 1557 the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” arguing that the legislation will prevent teachers from covering issues of sexual orientation and gender identity with their students. Republicans have rebuffed the “Don’t Say Gay” label, saying the bill is about age appropriateness and only applies to students at or below 3rd grade.
Bill 1557 states, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
The measure has drawn intense criticism from LGBTQ advocates and Democrats, who argue that the bill’s use of “age-appropriate” and “developmentally appropriate” is overly broad and could be used to prohibit such discussions throughout all grades. It has also drawn the ire of the Biden administration, with the President himself calling it “hateful” and the U.S. Education Secretary seemed to insinuate it could violate Title IX.
Right-leaning groups called the provision a step to protect against the sexualization and indoctrination of children. Governor Ron DeSantis, who is seeking re-election this year, has signaled support for the bill and is expected to sign it into law. On Monday, he told reporters, “We’re going to make sure that parents are able to send their kid to kindergarten without having some of this stuff injected into their school curriculum.” In addition, the bill replaces the term “genders” for “sexes,” cementing two sexes in state education law. The bill also allows parents to sue school districts over alleged violations.
Although the provisions of the bills on sexual orientation drew the most attention, they mainly cover race and mental health. Within HB 1557, one section dictates that schools must “adopt procedures for notifying a student’s parent if there is a change in the student’s services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health.” HB 7 also expands the definition of emotional health education curriculum to include “self-awareness and self-management, responsible decisionmaking, resiliency, relationship skills and conflict resolution, and understanding and respecting other viewpoints and backgrounds.”
HB 7 almost entirely focuses on preventing “concepts constituting discrimination based on race, color, sex, or national origin.” These include redefining discrimination and outlawing the following concepts* for employment and education.
- Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin are morally superior to others.
- An individual is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive due to their skin color.
- An individual’s moral character is either privileged or oppressed.
- People can treat others without respect due to their race, color, sex, or national origin.
- An individual bears responsibility or should feel guilt for adverse treatment committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin.
- An individual, by virtue of their race, color, sex, or national origin, should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion.
- Such virtues as merit, excellence, hard work, fairness, neutrality, objectivity, and racial colorblindness are racist or sexist.
*This list is an abridged version of the bill’s provisions. For the entire text, read HB 7.