Senate advances Parental Rights in Education expansion, sends bill to DeSantis

by | May 3, 2023

  • The Florida Senate advanced House Bill 1069 on Wednesday, which expands upon the Parental Rights in Education bill. The bill is now on its way to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s desk.
  • The bill broadens restrictions on instructional materials regarding sexual orientation and gender identity for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade and implements new restrictions on the use of pronouns in public and charter schools.
  • Senate Democrats argue that the legislation marginalizes children and acts as a disservice to teachers statewide, while Republicans refer to it as a move towards common sense.
  • The bill builds on a previous measure passed by the Legislature last year that increased scrutiny of school library books and instructional materials.

A piece of legislation that would expand upon last year’s Parental Rights in Education bill advanced through the Florida Senate on Wednesday, sending the measure to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The bill, House Bill 1069, broadens restrictions on instructional material regarding sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade to pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

The legislation also implements new limitations on the use of pronouns in both public and charter schools. While there is an exception for individuals with specified conditions, the law prohibits school employees or students from being required to refer to another individual by a personal title or pronoun that does not align with their biological sex.

The Senate voted along party lines to pass the measure more than one month after it cleared the House by a 77 to 35 margin. Senate Democrats were fiercely critical of the legislation, claiming that it marginalizes children and acts as a disservice to teachers statewide.

“This bill insults the professionalism of educators,” said Sen. Lauren Book. “It takes away freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and freedom to be treated equally in our public schools. It marginalizes children, parents, and educators simply trying to be who they are. We can all agree we don’t want our children to be exposed to inappropriate sexual content, but when this body refuses to classify terms like classroom instruction … you’re saying the quiet part out loud.”

Republicans, meanwhile, referred to the bill as a “move towards common sense” that works to remove elements of social pressures from classrooms.

“You see society coming at our children in a culture war that has an agenda to make them confused,” said Sen. Erin Grall. “We are talking about children who are so susceptible to suggestion and the power of suggestion. Sometimes unless you see this happen in front of you, you don’t appreciate how pervasive a message can be.”

Sen. Clay Yarborough, who sponsored the bill, echoed the sentiment espoused by Grall, claiming that teachers should “be able to spend their time focusing on skills that help a child succeed in life” rather than using language that would “violate their personal convictions.”

Democrat lawmakers continued to push back against provisions within the bill on Wednesday under assertions that it unjustly targets children “existing as themselves.”

“This bill contemplates that a six-year-old, a ten-year-old, a twelve-year-old, or a fourteen-year-old is pretending to be something that they’re not,” said Sen. Jason Pizzo. “In what universe does a child decide voluntarily to suffer ridicule, to suffer pain? That makes no sense. Who would invite and welcome that if all of these things were decisions, were voluntary.”

The bill also builds upon 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 legislation 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.”


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