Passidomo points to possible education law expansion

Citrus County Chronicle | By News Service of Florida | December 15, 2022

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, signaled support Thursday for a potential expansion of Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education” law, which drew heavy opposition this year from critics who labeled it the “don’t say gay” bill.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the law (HB 1557) in March, amid a controversy that centered mainly on a provision that bars classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third-grade. Also, the law requires that such instruction be “age-appropriate … in accordance with state academic standards” in higher grades.

“The one thing that I think could be looked at is, we ended it at grades one through three. I don’t think I’d be supportive of high school, because kids in high school are hopefully a little bit more mature, at least they should be. But, you know, the middle school, maybe going to sixth grade or something like that,” Passidomo said.

Opponents have argued the law, which has been challenged in federal court, chills educators’ ability to discuss sensitive topics with students and removes teachers as a lifeline for vulnerable LGBTQ youth. The law’s Republican supporters, however, billed it as a way for parents to have more control over what their children encounter in the classroom.

“I really believe, and I’m a parent — of course, my kids are older — I want to know what’s going on in schools. And I want to be able to be consulted,” Passidomo said.

The law also has served as a basis for the State Board of Education to scrutinize LGBTQ support guides in 10 school districts. A meeting of the state board Wednesday revealed that the districts are in various stages of revising the support guides, and in some cases have discontinued use of the documents.

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