So-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law confuses some Florida schools
Gretchen Robinson, a lesbian high school teacher in Orange County, Florida, poses for a photo at the downtown library, Saturday, August 13, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. Educators are cautiously making changes as they wait to see how the new law governing lessons on gender and sexual orientation will be interpreted and enforced. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) — Some Florida schools have moved library books and debated changing textbooks in response to a law critics call “Don’t Say Gay”.

As students return from summer break, educators are cautiously adjusting and waiting to see how the new law governing lessons on gender and sexual orientation will be interpreted and enforced.

The new law, championed by Florida’s GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, bans lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade as well as material that is not deemed age-appropriate. Most educators do not expect a major change in lesson plans — one of the key reasons critics cited in saying the law was unnecessary was that teachers do not cover such subjects in early grades anyway.

But some worry it sets a tone that will leave LGBTQ teachers and kids feeling ostracised.

The law attracted widespread attention and condemnation earlier this year when it worked its way through the Republican-controlled Statehouse. Critics dubbed it “Don’t Say Gay,” though it contains no bans on specific phrases and doesn’t bar material on sexual orientation considered age-appropriate for grades 4 and above.

Opponents say the law would stifle classroom discussion, arguing that it doesn’t clarify what could be deemed inappropriate. It also establishes an enforcement mechanism that invites parents to file lawsuits against districts, potentially heightening tensions between conservatives and school officials.

The Florida debate reflects one that is playing out nationwide, with fights in school boards and state legislatures over what and how children learn about race, gender, sexual orientation and American history. DeSantis and other Republicans have argued parents should be the ones in control of teaching their children about sexual orientation and gender identity.

The law has been at the heart of a discussion over sex education materials in Miami-Dade County, which has the state’s largest school system. Some school board members said new textbooks showed pictures of condoms, diaphragms and intrauterine devices that were too graphic for middle school students.

When school officials sought the board’s approval for the new textbooks in April, after the law had passed, administrators said they would remove chapters that cover gender identity and sexuality. The board members approved the online textbooks, but then reversed their decision last month after coming under public pressure. The board reversed itself again last week to adopt the textbooks without the chapters on gender identity and sexuality.

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