Parental rights expansion headed to Senate floor

by | Apr 13, 2023

  • The Florida Senate is considering a proposal to expand the “Parental Rights in Education” law, which prohibits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, despite opposition from Democrats and LGBTQ advocates.
  • The proposed expansion would also restrict the use of preferred pronouns in schools, with teachers and students barred from using them if they do not correspond to a student’s sex, potentially outing transgender students in front of their peers.
  • The bill also seeks to make it easier for people to file complaints about objectionable instructional materials and would prevent such materials from being available to students until the objection is resolved.

TALLAHASSEE — A measure that would expand 2022’s controversial “Parental Rights in Education” law — known to critics as “don’t say gay” — is primed for consideration by the full Florida Senate.

The proposal (SB 1320) would broaden the 2022 law’s prohibition on instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade to pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

The Republican-controlled Fiscal Policy Committee on Thursday approved the measure, sending it to the full Senate despite heavy opposition from Democrats and other critics. The House already passed a similar bill, and Thursday’s committee vote moved the issues one step closer to going to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Jon Harris Maurer, public policy director for the LGBTQ-advocacy group Equality Florida, described the bill as “dehumanizing” to vulnerable LGBTQ youths

“What makes my family any more of a sensitive topic that can’t be discussed in schools than any of yours?” Maurer asked members of the Senate panel.

Sen. Shevrin Jones, a Miami Gardens Democrat who is gay, also criticized the bill and referred to an ongoing feud between DeSantis and the Walt Disney Co. that was spurred by the company’s opposition to the 2022 law,

“Fighting Disney and big corporations — that’s punching up. They can handle themselves. But what we’re doing is punching down. We’re punching down on individuals who can’t fend and fight for themselves,” Jones said.

But Senate bill sponsor Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville, defended the measure.

“We need to let kids be kids, and our laws need to set appropriate boundaries that respect the rights and responsibilities of parents. The decision about when and if certain topics should be introduced to children belongs to parents, who should not have to worry that their students are receiving classroom instruction on topics and materials that parents feel are not age-appropriate, or for that matter are not appropriate at all,” Yarborough said.

Another controversial part of the bill would restrict the way that teachers and students could use their preferred pronouns in schools.

Under the bill, teachers and other school employees would be barred from telling students their preferred pronouns “if such personal title or pronouns do not correspond to his or her sex.” Students also could not be asked about their preferred pronouns.

Members of the Senate panel rejected a proposed change by Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boca Raton, that sought to put decisions about pronoun use in parents’ hands. Berman proposed requiring that school employees refer to students by their preferred pronouns unless parents notified principals in writing that different pronouns should be used.

Berman, who said the bill “carries the very real risk of outing transgender children in front of their peers,” argued that rejecting her proposal would be a denial of parents’ rights.

“If we don’t accept this amendment, we’re contradicting laws that we already passed. Specifically, the Parental Rights in Education law that recognizes parents’ fundamental right to direct the care, education and upbringing of their child,” Berman said.

But Yarborough pushed back, saying the bill would allow for situations where decisions on pronoun use would be left to teachers’ discretion.

“If a student and a parent together provide a pronoun to the teacher, I think the question on the table is, could the teacher use the pronoun? And if doing so would not violate the teacher’s personal convictions, then they can do that,” Yarborough said.

The measure also would build on another measure passed by the Legislature last year that increased scrutiny of school library books and instructional materials.

For example, the bill seeks to make it easier for people to file complaints by making objection forms “easy to read and understand” and available on school district websites.

The bill also spells out that in disputes based on claims that materials contain pornography or “describes sexual conduct,” such materials would have to be “unavailable to students until the objection is resolved.”


  1. Anonymous

    Awesome! I remember the West Palm Beach School Board forcing my 4 year old to wear a mask after the first parental right passed, just to oppose DeSantis. They had the school police officers put her and my 6 year old in solitary confinement until we “complied” – I will never forget or forgive them.

    • dmmorrison

      You wanted to increase the chances your kids would get Covid? Shame on you.

    • Deborah Coffey

      Sure, because allowing your kids to die is worth the price of “owning the libs,” right?

    • Maria Garaitonandia

      Absolutely! Oh, but since 0% of children were dying from covid, it was important that you muzzle them and prevent them from learning and developing in a healthy way. I don’t blame you one bit.

      • dmmorrison

        Not quite. Thousands of kids did die from Covid in the U.S. They were still dying at the time in question. Some of those who survived still suffer lingering effects. To expose them to danger simply for political reasons is inexcusable. And mask-wearing didn’t really impede learning much. It was school closures and distance learning. Masks were the least of the problem.

  2. Deborah Coffey

    Ron DeSantis is finished. His political career will be over in 2 awfully long more years. The majority of Americans despise what he is doing to education, to women, to immigrants, to LGBTQ people, to free-for-all guns, to Disney, to small businesses. Americans probably can’t exactly FASCISM, but they know it when they see it. Thank God, Ron DeSantis just sealed his fate with a total abortion ban (disguised as not being total). Bye, Ron. We’re only hoping you can’t kill too many more people while you finish out your career. When we can finally teach history again in our schools, you will go down in them as a total disgrace.

    • Maria Garaitonandia

      Actually, the majority of Floridians are very happy with his leadership, as we can tell from his 20 point victory and the influx of about a million people into this state. I doubt his political career is over, quite the contrary. I’d like to know of one person killed by Ron DeSantis. If you’re thinking Covid, I think Cuomo did a better job of that. But hey, there’s always the hellscape of crime and homelessness that is CA and NY and IL, a wonderful alternative to our great state.

  3. dolphincritic

    I hope the new laws remove discipline for those who refuse to participate in the use of deranged “pronouns”. Freedom of speech is a two-way street. A 6’4″ 220-pound female identifier wants to be called Cherry, but Cherry’s actual legal name is Charles. You should be able to call Charles Cherry IF YOU want to, but you shouldn’t be punished if you don’t. Fascism can poke its head out from a left winger or a right winger! Florida isn’t about the Elite knowing what’s best for you and then ramming down your throat! Florida is about you making a personal decision and being FREE to act on it, providing you do no harm to others. Of course, we all know the fascists will claim you’ve killed us all by making a personal decision that does not follow their edicts. That is why we have laws and Ron DeSantis enforces the law. Thank God for the governor!

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