The Department of Education appeared to threaten Florida over the state’s parental notification bill Tuesday, warning that “schools receiving federal funding must follow federal civil rights law.”
“Parents across the country are looking to national, state, and district leaders to support our nation’s students, help them recover from the pandemic, and provide them the academic and mental health supports they need,” said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona in a Tuesday afternoon statement. “Instead, leaders in Florida are prioritizing hateful bills that hurt some of the students most in need.”
“The Department of Education has made clear that all schools receiving federal funding must follow federal civil rights law, including Title IX’s protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” he continued. “We stand with our LGBTQ+ students in Florida and across the country, and urge Florida leaders to make sure all their students are protected and supported.”
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw told The Daily Wire Tuesday that she recommended Cardona read the bill before commenting on it.
“The bill does not single out any sexual orientation or gender identity – it applies to ALL discussion of sex and gender in grades VPK-3,” the governor’s spokeswoman said. “The idea that it’s inappropriate to instruct 7-year-olds about sexual topics should not be controversial in the least.”
“Children should never be sexualized,” Pushaw added. “They are far too young to be learning about these topics in school. If a young child has any questions about sexuality or gender, it’s solely up to that child’s parent or guardian how they want to answer those questions. This is not an LGBT issue, and most Floridians – gay or straight – are fully in favor of child safeguarding and parents’ rights.”
Critics have most notably taken issue with HB 1557’s statement that “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
Students in kindergarten are typically five years old, while third graders generally are eight or nine years old.
News outlets like CNN call HB 1557 the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” in copy, and critics of the legislation accuse Republicans of endangering LGBTQ youth by outing them to their parents or preventing them from learning about their sexuality
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his team have repeatedly pushed back on this framing. As recently as Monday, the governor tore into a reporter for misrepresenting the bill during a press briefing.
“Critics call it the Don’t Say Gay bill,” said the reporter, to which DeSantis replied, “Does it say that in the bill? I’m asking you to tell me what is in the bill because you are pushing false narratives. It doesn’t matter what critics say.”
“It bans classroom instruction on sexual identity and gender orientation,” said the reporter.
Reporter: “Critics call it the Don’t Say Gay bill”
DeSantis: “Does it say that in the bill?”
Reporter: “It bans classroom instruction on sexual identity and gender orientation.”
DeSantis: “For who?… Grades Pre-K through 3.”
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) March 7, 2022
“For who?” pressed the governor. “For grades Pre-K through 3. So 5 year olds, 6 year olds, 7 year olds, and the idea that you wouldn’t be honest about that and tell people what it actually says, it’s why people don’t trust people like you, because you peddle false narratives.”
Nowhere in the legislation is the word “gay” mentioned, though the word “parent” is mentioned 32 times and the word “parental” is mentioned eight times. The legislation heavily focuses on parental notification and parental awareness of what children are being taught or exposed to in school.