Board of Education expands ‘Don’t Say Gay’ through 12th grade

The expansion occurred as two bills related to LGBTQ+ rights passed the House
DOE approves K-12 ban on LGBTQ+ classroom conversations
Published: Apr. 19, 2023 at 7:00 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 19, 2023 at 7:20 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - An expansion of what critics call the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, preventing teachers from instructing students on sexual orientation or gender identity, passed the Florida Board of Education Wednesday.

The board’s vote extends the restriction all the way through 12th grade. This expansion was proposed by Gov. DeSantis last month and does not need legislative approval to go into effect.

Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. said the purpose of the measure is to send the message that teachers should not deviate from Florida standards, and Florida standards do not include teaching about gender identity or sexuality.

The Board of Education meeting room was packed Wednesday, with more than 30 people giving public comments. Opponents called the measure homophobic and transphobic.

A few supporters spoke as well, saying teachers should be focusing on the basics like reading, writing and math and not talking about LGBTQ+ topics.

“When it comes to issues such as sexual orientation and gender identity, these decisions should be left at home for parents to decide when and if their child should be exposed to this material,” one speaker said. “It should not be up to teachers or schools.”

LGBTQ advocates held a roundtable discussion after the vote. One of the panelists, Shari Gewanter, is a public school teacher in Tallahassee who is openly gay. She said she aims to make her classroom a safe space for LGBTQ+ students, and that she’s not going to stop now, even if it means breaking the law.

“I am seeing many of my colleagues feel like they are going to have to hide who they are differently than their professional peers are forced to do. And that will be detrimental to our children and to the education of our children,” Gewanter said.

Other roundtable panelists said they worry the expansion of this measure is going to prevent LGBTQ+ students from feeling seen and supported in the classroom.

This vote comes on the same day that the Florida House passed two bills related to LGBTQ+ rights. One bill bans gender-affirming care for minors, and another prevents transgender people from using a bathroom that doesn’t match their assigned sex at birth. These bills are now headed to Governor DeSantis, who is expected to sign them.

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