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Florida extends through 12th grade its ban on teaching about gender identity, sexual orientation

Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. spoke during a press conference in Orange Park on Thursday.
The Florida Channel
Via video
Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr.

Florida's State Board of Education approved a new professional conduct rule for teachers Wednesday that bars almost all instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity through 12th grade.

The rule extends to all grades the kindergarten-through-third-grade ban imposed last year by the Parental Rights in Education Act pushed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Critics dubbed that bill the Don't Say Gay law.

Teachers could lose their credentials if they "intentionally provide classroom instruction" on sexual orientation or gender identity outside certain health classes.

Numerous critics of the rule, like Panhandle resident Denice Barber, spoke at the board meeting.

"I feel like its my moral obligation as the parent of a trans kid and the grandparent of a transgender child to come up here and say that this rule is based in hate," Barber said. "It's homophobic, it's bigoted and it's a disgrace."

Opponents say it is overly vague and will hurt vulnerable gay and transgender kids, who sometimes find life-saving support from teachers.

Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. disagreed. He says mental health services aren't affected and are available through school counselors.

"We shouldn't be asking our teacher to be teaching mental health or providing that. They should be more of a conduit," he said.

Education officials said teachers should stick to the academic standards.

"This sets clarity for our teachers that in our standards in pre-K through 12 none of these issues that are being talked about are part of our standards," Diaz said.

The new rule will take effect in about a month, after a procedural notice period, according to The Associated Press.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
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