Bill allowing ‘patriotic organizations’ into schools sails through Senate committee

Florida Politics | By Gabrielle Russon | February 27, 2024

If passed, the measure would take effect July 1, 2024.

Legislation granting designated “patriotic organizations” more access to students in schools is one step closer to passage.

The Senate Fiscal Policy Committee approved HB 1317, which allows patriotic groups to speak with students and pass out materials during school hours or leave displays at schools. 

Which groups are considered “patriotic” in the eyes of the bill? The list names six groups: the mentoring organization Big Brothers-Big Sisters of America, the Boy Scouts of America, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Civil Air Patrol, Future Farmers of America and the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.

The bill sailed through the Senate committee Tuesday with little discussion or debate.

Republican Sen. Tom Wright, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, said the legislation defines “patriotic organizations” as a “youth membership organization, specified in federal law, that serve young people under the age of 21.”

The bill also gives schools the control to set the date and time when the groups speak to students if the groups give “reasonable notice.”

It also allows the groups to use school buildings after school and says schools aren’t required legally to give “equal time” to other groups.

Parents have the opportunity for their children to opt out.

Staff analysis noted that the bill is meant to help students become more civic-minded and engaged.

“Civic literacy and preparing students to become civically engaged and knowledgeable adults who positively contribute to their communities is a priority of the Florida education system,” the staff analysis said.

The House unanimously passed the bill 118-0.

If approved, the measure would take effect July 1, 2024.

Orange County Schools spokesman Scott Howat attended Tuesday’s hearing and voiced support of the bill, but did not elaborate why. 

“Mr. Howat waived in support of HB 1317 because the bill provides school boards local control over patriotic organizations as defined by law, that have access to our schools,” the district said in a statement sent to Florida Politics.

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