SPRING HILL, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis signed controversial House Bill 1557 into law on Monday.
The bill has been dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill by opponents who argue it's a step backward for LGBTQ rights. Supporters, however, said the bill is about parental rights.
The seven-page bill put Florida into the middle of the culture wars, drawing praise and criticism from around the nation.
- Florida Senate passes 'Don't Say Gay' bill sending it to governor's desk
- Florida House passes 'Don't Say Gay' bill
- Some Disney employees stage walkout in protest of Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill
- Amendment that could out LGBTQ students withdrawn from Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill
DeSantis signed the bill during a press conference at Classical Preparatory School in Spring Hill.
DeSantis started his press conference by claiming the last few years have revealed to parents that they're being "ignored increasingly" across the country regarding their children's education.
"We have seen curriculum embedded for very, very young children, classroom materials about sexuality and woke gender ideology. We've seen libraries that have clearly inappropriate, pornographic materials for very young kids," DeSantis said. "We've seen services that were given to students without the consent or even knowledge of their parents."
DeSantis said in Florida, his office found at least six school districts with policies, "to cut parents out of decisions regarding their child's well-being and to shield them from knowing about various forms of mental health services."He named Hillsborough and Sarasota counties among them.
DeSantis said HB 1557 does the following.
- Prohibits classroom instruction about sexuality or things like transgender in K-3 classrooms, "and after third grade, those curriculums need to be age-appropriate," he added.
- Ensures that at the beginning of every school year, parents will be notified about health care services offered at the school with the right to decline any service offered.
- Ensures that whenever a questionnaire or health screening is given to our young students, parents receive it first and give permission for the school to give it to their child
DeSantis said opponents of the bill have engaged in "sloganeering and fake narratives" when it comes to discussing it.
"They're sloganeering because they don't want to admit that they support a lot of the things that we're providing protections against," DeSantis said. "For example, they support sexualizing kids in kindergarten. They support injecting woke gender ideology into second-grade classrooms. They support enabling schools to quote transition students to a quote different gender, without the knowledge of the parent, much less without the parent's consent."
Within minutes of Governor DeSantis signing the bill, the Walt Disney Company expressed opposition to the bill and said the company's goal is to get the law "repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts..."
Statement from The Walt Disney Company on signing of Florida legislation: pic.twitter.com/UVI7Ko3aKS— Walt Disney Company (@WaltDisneyCo) March 28, 2022
Equality Florida, a civil rights organization that fights to secure equality for Florida’s LGBTQ community, also reacted to the bill's signing.
"We'll defend the rights of all students to have a healthy environment to learn & thrive & for all parents to know their families are included & respected," the group wrote on Twitter. "This law won't stand & we will work to see it removed either by the courts as unconstitutional or repealed by the (Florida legislature)."
Hours later, Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar released the following statement:
By signing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, Gov. DeSantis has put a political agenda ahead of what’s best for our students.
“Parents are central to their children’s education, and that was true long before the governor signed ‘Don’t Say Gay’ into law,” said Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar. “Parents, teachers, school staff and administrators are part of the same team. We all want to make sure each student gets the education they deserve and need, regardless of that child’s race, background, ZIP code or ability.”
HB 1557 unnecessarily attempts to give parents what they already have — rights involving their children’s education. It also unnecessarily attempts to prohibit what is not taught — namely curriculum regarding sexuality in elementary classrooms. However, HB 1557 will chill conversations regarding issues related to students who are part of or associated with the LGBTQ+ community, such as children with two parents of the same gender. The new law will mean that some of our students will no longer feel safe and secure, or even seen.
HB 1557 also will undoubtably spur lawsuits. “Don’t Say Gay” introduces a cause of action by which any parent could sue a school district if they believe the district “encouraged” inappropriate classroom discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity, regardless of the grade level where the discussion occurred.
“This law is a political stunt meant to divert attention from the real needs of our students,” said President Spar. “Our kids need teachers and staff. Florida has a huge shortage of both. The governor and lawmakers should be focused on how to retain and recruit more educators for our public schools.”
There are currently more than 4,000 teacher vacancies and 5,000 support staff vacancies statewide.