Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, won reelection in 2022 and has made battling a supposed progressive ‘woke’ ideology a central concern of his second term – Copyright AFP –
Florida on Wednesday extended its controversial ban on lessons related to gender identity and sexual orientation to all school grades, a move pushed by the southern US state’s Republican governor and likely presidential candidate Ron DeSantis.
Dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, the policy was initially limited to kindergarten through third grade, but the state’s Board of Education on Wednesday approved an expansion to grades four through 12.
The expansion had already been approved by the Department of Education, which like the board is led by DeSantis appointees, and does not need legislative approval to take effect.
The new rule stipulates that teachers “shall not intentionally provide classroom instruction to students in grades 4 through 12 on sexual orientation or gender identity unless such instruction is … expressly required by state academic standards.”
It also allows for an exemption if the lesson is “part of a reproductive health course or health lesson for which a student’s parent has the option to have his or her student not attend.”
Teachers who violate the policy could have their licenses suspended or revoked, according to the text.
Equality Florida, an LGBTQ rights group, expressed outrage at the move.
“Shame on the DeSantis Administration for putting a target on the backs of LGBTQ Floridians,” the group said in a statement.
It accused Republican officials of having a “lust for government censorship.”
DeSantis, who won reelection in 2022 in a landslide victory, has made battling politicians, teachers and businesses he accuses of wanting to impose a progressive “woke” ideology on others a central concern of his second term.
He has increasingly courted conservative voters with controversial proposals on education and immigration in recent months, as jockeying for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination heats up.
A rising star of the American right, DeSantis is widely expected to go toe-to-toe with former president Donald Trump, who has already declared his candidacy.
Florida extends ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law to all school years
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