Republican lawmakers in Florida are proposing bills that will prevent staff from addressing students with pronouns other than the ones they were assigned at birth. The bills would also make it the policy of state schools that sex is “an immutable biological trait.”
Legislators introduced six bills that seek to alter the type of education students receive before the start of the Sunshine State’s legislative session in early March. The bills would affect the more than 16,000 minors in Florida who identify as transgender, and thousands of nonbinary people who may use different pronouns, but might not identify as trans.
Two of the bills would build on the existing Parental Rights in Education, or “Don’t Say Gay” law, passed in 2021, which prohibits class discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten through 3rd grade. Older children may only receive education about these topics that is “age appropriate,” though the exact guidelines on what type of education that would entail are unclear.
Advocates say that the proposed legislation will only harm students. “It really is further and further isolating LGBTQ students,” Sarah Warbelow, legal director for LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, told the Washington Post. “It’s making it hard for them to receive the full support that schools should be giving every child.”
Senate Bill 1320 would expand the ban on discussions about gender and sexuality until ninth grade (when most students are 14 or 15) instead of grade three (when students are 8 or 9). It would also amend the definition of the term sex to a “person’s sex chromosomes, naturally occurring sex hormones, and internal and external genitalia present at birth.” Per the legislation, sex is defined as “immutable” and “biological.”
Teachers and staff would also be prohibited from using student’s preferred pronouns if they differ from those assigned at birth. And employees would also be banned from sharing their preferred pronouns with a student if they do not “correspond to his or her sex.”
Lawmakers are also considering similar legislation in House Bill 1223, which would impose similar restrictions on teaching about sex, gender, and sexuality. At a subcommittee meeting on Tuesday for the bill, legislators voted in favor of adding an amendment that said this new definition of sex would not apply to intersex people.
Another amendment, proposed by Rep. Rita Harris, a Democrat, would allow school staff to refer to a child by their preferred pronouns if their parent sends in a note in writing.
Parents of transgender children voiced their support for the amendment. “These laws invade our privacy as [my son] would be forced to start the fifth grade as a gender that no one knows him as,” said one mother, Shannen Callahan, during the bill’s House Choice and Innovation Subcommittee hearing on Tuesday. “How do you foresee that first day of school and those conversations with the teachers as the children ask ‘Why is he coming back as a girl?’ This amendment would protect my freedom and my parental right to protect my child’s privacy.”
The amendment failed along party lines.
The state House bill also seeks to expand the Parental Rights in Education law to apply to charter schools, which receive state money but were previously exempt from this rule.
Another bill, House Bill 1069, would require schools to teach students from grade 6 through 12 that “biological males impregnate biological females by fertilizing the female egg with male sperm; that the female then gestates the offspring; and that these reproductive roles are binary, stable, and unchangeable.”
Sex ed teachers would only be able to teach about reproductive health using materials approved by the Department of Education, instead of the district school board.
The legislation would also require every district school board to create an objection form that would allow any resident of the county to complain about any instructional material used in class, if it “depicts or describes any sexual conduct.”
If passed, the bill would go into effect on July 1.
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