Education officials on Wednesday extended a law signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to ban classroom instruction on gender transitioning and sexual reorientation for students in all public school grades.
The new rule is part of a broader conservative pushback championed by DeSantis against the culturally woke climate whereby small children are exposed to adult sexual content and ideas about gender fluidity as early as possible.
Last year, DeSantis already signed legislation to ban exposure of children from kindergarten through third grade to such instruction in the classroom, arguing teaching such sensitive issues should resort to the parents’ judgments.
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Last week, the board, which consists solely of members appointed by DeSantis, voted unanimously for extending the rule from grade four in grades through grades 12, the sole exception being if the education complies with state standards or is part of a health class that parents can opt their children out of.
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The ruling provoked emotional protests among LGBT elements in Florida and nationwide by critics calling it a “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
“This rule is by design a tool for curating fear, anxiety, and the erasure of our LGBTQ community,” said Joe Saunders, the senior political director for LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Florida.
U.S. President Joe Biden also weighed in, saying the rule would “marginalize already vulnerable LGBTQ students.”
The ruling also brought Desantis on a collision course with Walt Disney Co, the Florida headquartered mega entertainment company that sided with the oppositionists to the rule.
However, the state education commissioner, Manny Diaz, supported the amendment, stating it complied with state regulations that are already in place, leaving the responsibility to the parents.
“We’re not removing anything here,” Diaz said. “All we are doing is setting the expectations so that our teachers are clear that they are teaching to the standards.”
Students struggling with gender identity issues should be referred to mental health counselors instead of teachers, who work along state-approved lines, he said.
Members of several conservative groups that focus on education, including Moms for Liberty and Florida Citizens Alliance, applauded the law for safeguarding parental rights.
“These decisions should be left at home for parents to decide when their children should be exposed to this material,” said Ryan Kennedy of the Florida Citizens Alliance.
Other adherents said the rule was paramount for keeping children free of sexual indoctrination or, even worse, the normalization and ushering in pedophilia in society.
Along party lines
According to a Reuters/Ipsos survey from this March, Americans are sharply divided along party lines on the issue.
Some 72 percent of Democrats expressed being more inclined to vote for a presidential candidate who supports an education system that allows teachers to discuss sexual orientation and gender identity with minors in school.
Among Republicans, however, 76 percent declared they would oppose such a candidate.
The regulation does not require legislative approval as the Florida State legislature, which is controlled by a Republican majority, is separately working on a bill that would also stretch the 2022 law through eighth grade.
Violating the rule could result in an educator suspending or revoking their teaching license.
Ban on transsexual athletes
The conservative opposition against oversexualizing youth should be seen as a general, nationwide pushback against the growing efforts of progressives that focus on LGBTQ rights, involving children in sexual disorientation campaigns, and allowing male-to-female trans-athletes to compete in women’s sports, where they enjoy a distinct, yet ideologically unassailable advantage.
As a result, in 21 U.S. states, transgender school sports bans that block former males from contenders in women’s competitions are in place, the press agency reported based on claims by the Human Rights Campaign LGBTQ advocacy group.
The Biden administration, on its part, has been working on a binary ruling denying schools the right to bar transgender athletes from playing according to the sex they identify with, the sole exception being possibly at the highest levels of competition.
Reuters contributed to this report.