TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Monday that forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, a policy that has drawn intense national scrutiny from critics who argue it marginalizes LGBTQ people.
The legislation has pushed Florida and DeSantis, an ascending Republican and potential 2024 presidential candidate, to the forefront of the country's culture wars, with LGBTQ advocates, students, Democrats, the entertainment industry and the White House denouncing what critics have called the “Don't Say Gay” bill.
DeSantis and Republicans have repeatedly said the measure is reasonable and that parents, not teachers, should be broaching subjects of sexual orientation and gender identity with their children.
“We will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination,” DeSantis said before he signed the bill into law. He and other speakers stood at a podium affixed with a placard reading Protect Children/Support Parents.
Critics say House Bill 1557, officially known as the Parental Rights in Education bill, is so vaguely worded that speech could be muzzled throughout public schools.
The bill 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.” Parents would be able to sue districts over violations.
DeSantis said opponents of the bill have engaged in "sloganeering and fake narratives."
"They're sloganeering because they don't want to admit that they support a lot of the things that we're providing protections against," DeSanti claimed. "For example, they support sexualizing kids in kindergarten. They support injecting woke gender ideology into second-grade classrooms. They support enabling schools to quote transition students to a quote different gender, without the knowledge of the parent, much less without the parent's consent."
DeSantis signed the bill after a news conference held at the Classical Preparatory School in Spring Hill, about 46 miles north of Tampa.