A House committee on Thursday approved a bill that would bolster a process in which people can object to instructional materials and school-library books, while moving to broaden a controversial 2022 law that blocks instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Republican-controlled House Education & Employment Committee approved the bill (HB 1069), which is now ready to go to the full House. The 2022 law barred instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
The House committee Thursday approved changes to the bill to expand that prohibition to pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
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Democrats questioned the need to expand the sexual-orientation and gender-identity law, which was formally titled “Parental Rights in Education” but was disparagingly given the moniker “don’t say gay” by opponents.
“We were told last session (kindergarten) through third (grade) was just simply too young to discuss this topic,” Rep. Patricia Williams, D-Pompano Beach, said. “Why are we coming now to expand it to eighth grade?”
Bill sponsor Adam Anderson, R-Palm Harbor, said the topics should be discussed “between a parent and a child” at home. “It is my belief that children in middle school are probably some of the most impressionable students that we have,” Anderson said, noting he is a father of three. “I can tell you by experience that different children develop at different rates.”
The bill also would make the process easier for people to object to instructional materials and library books, in part by requiring that objection forms are “easy to read and understand” and available on school-district websites.
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The measure also would bar school employees from telling students their preferred pronouns if those pronouns “do not correspond to his or her sex.”
In addition, it would prevent employees from asking students about their preferred pronouns. Joe Saunders, senior political director for the LGBTQ-advocacy group Equality Florida, criticized the bill as “wrong” and “offensive” and characterized it as a move toward censorship.
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