‘It’s alarmist’: Florida parents and teachers slam Senate bill limiting elementary school talk about LGBTQ community | Florida News | Tampa

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A slew of teachers, parents and students spoke out on Tuesday morning against legislation that would more tightly regulate LGBTQ classroom teaching and conversations with younger students.

Despite the flurry of public testimony opposing the bill, the measure (SB 1834) passed by a vote of 6 to 3 along party lines by the Senate Committee on Education.

The legislation, sponsored by Republican Ocala Senator Dennis Baxley, would prohibit school districts “from encouraging classroom discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity in the elementary grades or in any manner that is not not age appropriate”. It would also allow parents to sue a school district if such a violation occurs. In introducing the bill, Baxley said it would promote parental rights and prevent schools from advancing “social agendas”.

“There is a shift going on in our culture, maybe some of it is very good. But parents have a parenting role, and it’s being ignored,” Baxley said. “I think when you start opening sexual-type discussions with children, you enter a very dangerous zone.”

Baxley made it clear that her concern is that rather than teaching students basic skills, teachers are tasked with “social engineering” LGBTQ issues. Some see the legislation as part of the culture wars shaping this session’s priorities.

The bill is akin to the Parents’ Bill of Rights measure passed last year that also drew objections from the LBGTQ community. The law then provided a legal avenue to prevent schools from requiring students to wear face masks despite their parents’ objections.

“My concern is that when we are off track. Rather than equipping these very young students with basic skill sets…we have a curriculum that is part of the curriculum which I believe is social engineering. And it’s age inappropriate,” Baxley explained. “I think what happens is they have a political and cultural vision that they lock themselves into and they become advocates in that setting with the kids, and they don’t think about ‘That’s the role. of the parent. It’s not my role.

So what would violate the law? Senator Travis Hutson, a Republican from St. John’s, suggested a sample homework assignment that included a math problem led by the premise of “Sally has two moms or Johnny has two dads.” That, Baxley said, is “exactly where the problem lies.”

“There is a way to move the agendas. People get excited about programs that interest them and affect their lives. And we have to draw a line of authority,” Baxley said. “Parents don’t want to be left behind. They want to be responsible for themselves and take responsibility for their students, and that’s exactly the difference between launching some kind of teaching method and sticking to the mission.

However, the couple did not discuss whether this assignment would violate the law if the premise of the issue included a father and mother figure, who would also describe sexual orientation or gender identity.

The proposal, dubbed by some public commentators the “don’t say gay bill”, drew opposition from more than 100 people on Tuesday. The number of people wanting to speak on the bill led Senator Shevrin Jones, deputy chairman of the committee, to forego the ability of Democrats to debate in committee in favor of hearing evidence.

Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy adviser for the ACLU of Florida, spoke out against the legislation, calling it “government censorship.”

“If passed, it would effectively block students from talking about their family members, friends, neighbors and LGBTQ+ icons. Moreover, it would prevent students from talking about their own lives and erase their very existence,” she said. “These are not taboo subjects, but banning them makes them such. … You don’t have to vote on this bill today, you choose to.

Jon Harris Maurer, director of public policy for Equality Florida, echoed Gross’ concerns.

“It is patently offensive to say that discussions at school, even with young children, referring to two moms or two dads – parents, like the ones sitting in this room who are your constituents…are in somehow dangerous or inappropriate,” he said.

Several parents within the LGBTQ community have expressed concern that discussion about their family would not be considered “age-appropriate” under the legislation and that the bill would lead to an increase in attempts to suicide among students who identify with the LGBTQ community.

“My child, who is transgender, is not here with me because he has not been able to get a fair or safe education from the county to which I sell my talents every day,” said sixth grade teacher Anita Hatcher. year in Jackson County. . “When you deny one child, you deny all children. I have been addressing children’s issues in the classroom for 36 years as a public educator, as a trusted servant.

Although Baxley presented the bill as regulating LGBTQ issues in a K-3 curriculum, the wording of the legislation makes no mention of curriculum instruction or grade levels. Its vague language, which prohibits “classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity”, has also been criticized by commentators.

Supporters of the legislation included the Family Policy Council and the Florida PTA.

The Senate bill is now heading to its second of three committees before it can be heard by the full chamber. In January, the House Education and Employment Committee approved Republican Rep. Joe Harding’s version of the law (HB 1557).

This article first appeared on Florida politics.

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