(The Hill) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) administration is proposing an expansion of a law — dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” — that prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity to all grades in the state.
The proposal to expand the ban on classroom instruction on the topics was proposed by the state Education Department, and would ban such lessons in grades 4-12, unless it is expressly required by state academic standards or part of a reproductive health course which a parent has the option to opt out of. The current law prohibits the teaching to students in pre-K to third grade.
The proposal would not need legislative approval and is set to be voted on by the state Board of Education next month, according to the Associated Press, setting up a possible extension of a law that has drawn applause from conservatives but has been criticized as a move that stifles free speech and targets the LGBTQ community.
DeSantis has tapped into cultural issues, including questions of identity and sexual orientation, as he ponders jumping into the 2024 presidential race, a move that is widely expected. Republicans have also sought to take control of the narrative on education, with established and potential presidential hopefuls seeking to outdo each other with education policies.
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) criticized the DeSantis maneuver in Florida as not going “far enough.”
“Basically, what it said was you shouldn’t be able to talk about gender before third grade,” Haley said at a town hall in Exeter, N.H., last month, according to Fox News. “I’m sorry, I don’t think that goes far enough.”
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The law is part of a larger wave of moves by Republican lawmakers in a number of states to fight back against what they argue is the teaching of liberal theories to students, including lessons on race, sexual orientation and gender.
DeSantis’s office referred The Hill to the state Education Department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.