The Biden administration said Friday it will monitor a new Florida law that restricts instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools.
In a statement, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre encouraged students and parents to file complaints with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights if they think they face discrimination. The law (HB 1557), which has drawn nationwide attention, prevents instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade and requires that such instruction be “age-appropriate … in accordance with state academic standards” in older grades.
Republican lawmakers titled the measure the “Parental Rights in Education” bill. Opponents labeled it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The law took effect Friday.
“This is not an issue of ‘parents’ rights,’” Jean-Pierre said in the statement. “This is discrimination, plain and simple. It’s part of a disturbing and dangerous nationwide trend of right-wing politicians cynically targeting LGBTQI+ students, educators, and individuals to score political points. It encourages bullying and threatens students’ mental health, physical safety, and well-being. It censors dedicated teachers and educators who want to do the right thing and support their students.”
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Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republican supporters of the bill have disputed the “Don’t Say Gay” moniker and allegations that it is discriminatory.
“Far from banning discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity, the legislation expressly allows age- and developmentally appropriate education on those subjects,” attorneys for the state wrote in a court filing this week in a case challenging the law. “Consistent with that modest limitation, the law prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for the youngest children, neutrally allowing all parents, no matter their views, to introduce those sensitive topics to their children as they see fit.”
“The White House continues to lie about Florida’s work to protect children as young as five years old from sexualized lesson plans. As a father of three young children, Governor DeSantis is committed to putting students first and protecting parents’ rights, and no false White House statement will change that,” said Lindsey Curnutte, DeSantis for Governor campaign spokesperson.