‘Don’t Say Gay’ law confuses some Florida schools

Aug 15, 2022, 7:09 AM | Updated: 4:37 pm
Gretchen Robinson, a lesbian high school teacher in Orange County, Fla., poses for a photo at the d...

Gretchen Robinson, a lesbian high school teacher in Orange County, Fla., poses for a photo at the downtown library, Saturday, Aug. 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)

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Some Florida schools have moved library books and debated changing textbooks in response to a law critics call “Don’t Say Gay” — and some teachers have worried that family pictures on their desks could get them in trouble.

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 ostracized.

“The messaging of this law is horrible. It’s toxic, it’s discriminatory,” said Gretchen Robinson, a lesbian high school teacher in Orange County. “It targets, very obviously, LGBTQ students, it ‘others’ them, and that is not OK.”

Workshops about the law that her school district’s legal team held over the summer caused confusion. Some staff said they were told teachers in kindergarten through third grade could not display pride flags or photos of their same-sex spouses. The district later said the law only applied to classroom instruction and that the photos were allowed. It apologized for offering bad guidance with a hypothetical discussion.

Robinson said schools in her area had given out rainbow-colored lanyards and inclusion stickers, but she was not sure whether teachers would continue to wear or display them. She also worried that some teachers will “err on the side of caution and leave stuff out” during lessons.

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.

DeSantis recently addressed some of the concerns at an unrelated news conference, saying: “You know I hear some people say, ‘Wow, school’s coming up. But, you know, Florida, they have parent’s rights in education, they banned CRT (critical race theory), all this stuff. People, how are they gonna know what to teach or whatever?’

“And I’m just thinking to myself, you know, you teach reading, math, science, the basic stuff. And you don’t teach gender ideology, CRT, the sexuality in the elementary schools. That’s not very difficult to know and that’s not very difficult to understand,” he said.

Educators say the state Department of Education has not yet explained clearly how the law will be enforced. In June the agency issued a memo on the law to school district superintendents, but it mostly contained a copy and paste of the legislative text. The agency did not immediately return an email seeking comment from AP.

“The guidance we’re giving people is that it is confusing and we don’t know how it’s going to be interpreted. But what we can do is care for kids and provide the good learning environment that they deserve,” said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association union.

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.

In Palm Beach County, school officials say they reviewed books and have moved only a handful to a separate section not accessible to children in third grade and younger.

In various school districts, teachers have said they are worried about parents filing complaints over perceived violations while there’s still not much clarity around the new law.

Norma Schwartz, mother of a fifth grader and an eighth grader in Miami-Dade schools, said the law may cause some students, families and teachers to feel targeted.

“It goes against our mission and vision, to empower all children, not make them feel like they don’t belong,” said Schwartz, who is part of the Miami-Dade County Council PTA, which has opposed the law. “As far as parental rights, we are the PTA. We have been around for 100 years. We want parental engagement, we want to empower parents.”

___

For more back-to-school coverage, visit: https://apnews.com/hub/back-to-school

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - A TV screen showing a news program reporting about North Korea's missile launch with file fo...
Associated Press

US carrier, S Korea warships start new drills amid tensions

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan launched a new round of naval drills with South Korean warships on Friday, a day after North Korea fired more ballistic missiles and flew warplanes in an escalation of its weapons tests. The Reagan and its battle group returned to the waters near […]
20 hours ago
This image released by Polk & Co. shows the company during a performance of Roundabout Theatre Comp...
Associated Press

Review: Broadway revival of ‘1776’ shakes things up nicely

NEW YORK (AP) — The somewhat antiquated musical “1776” has long been ripe for a radical makeover and it has found one on Broadway. “Someone oughta open up a window!” an actor cries in the first scene and that applies to both the stifling heat of the setting as well as this revival, which brings […]
20 hours ago
Far-right Proud Boys member Jeremy Joseph Bertino, second from left, joins other supporters of Pres...
Associated Press

Riot plea: Proud Boys member admits to seditious conspiracy

WASHINGTON (AP) — A North Carolina man pleaded guilty Thursday to plotting with other members of the far-right Proud Boys to violently stop the transfer of presidential power after the 2020 election, making him the first member of the extremist group to plead guilty to a seditious conspiracy charge. Jeremy Joseph Bertino, 43, has agreed […]
20 hours ago
FILE - This undated photo released by the Arizona Attorney General's Office shows Guillermina Fuent...
Associated Press

Arizona woman seeks leniency in ballot harvesting case

PHOENIX (AP) — A parade of character witnesses provided a judge Thursday with glowing reports about a southern Arizona woman who admitted collecting four voted early ballots in the 2020 primary election, as her lawyer seeks leniency and prosecutors urge him to send her to prison for a year. Testimony in Yuma County Superior Court […]
20 hours ago
FILE - A demonstrator waves a flag with marijuana leaves depicted on it during a protest calling fo...
Associated Press

Biden pardons thousands for ‘simple possession’ of marijuana

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law, as his administration takes a dramatic step toward decriminalizing the drug and addressing charging practices that disproportionately impact people of color. Biden’s move also covers thousands convicted of the crime in the District of Columbia. […]
20 hours ago
President Joe Biden aboard Marine One arrives at the Wall Street Landing Zone in New York, Thursday...
Associated Press

Biden: Nuclear ‘Armageddon’ risk highest since ’62 crisis

NEW YORK (AP) — President Joe Biden said Thursday that the risk of nuclear “Armageddon” is at the highest level since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, as Russian officials speak of the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons after suffering massive setbacks in the eight-month invasion of Ukraine. Speaking at a fundraiser for the Democratic […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
...
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
‘Don’t Say Gay’ law confuses some Florida schools