TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law on Monday that forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
DeSantis and other Republicans have said the measure is reasonable and that parents, not teachers, should be broaching subjects of sexual orientation and gender identity with young children. The law went into effect just days after DeSantis signed a separate bill that potentially restricts what books elementary schools can keep in their libraries or use for instruction.
“We will make sure that parents can send their kids to school to get an education, not an indoctrination,” DeSantis said to applause before he signed the sexual orientation and gender identity measure during a ceremony at a preparatory school outside Tampa.
The law states: “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” Parents would be able to sue districts over violations.
As the bill moved through the legislature, celebrities mobilized against it on social media, and criticized it at this year’s Academy Awards. Some Florida students staged walkouts and packed into committee rooms and statehouse halls to protest the measure, often with booming chants of “We say gay!”
The Walt Disney Company, a powerful player in Florida politics, suspended its political donations in the state, and LGBTQ advocates who work for the company criticized CEO Bob Chapek for what they said was his slow response speaking out against the bill.
After DeSantis signed the measure, Disney released a statement saying, “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that.”
The law’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Joe Harding, has said it would not bar spontaneous discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity in schools but would prevent districts from integrating the subjects into official curriculum.
“Nothing in the amendment was about outing a student. Rather than battle misinformation related to the amendment, I decided to focus on the primary bill that empowers parents to be engaged in their children’s lives,” he said in a statement.
DeSantis signed the bill after a news conference held at the Classical Preparatory School in Spring Hill, about 46 miles north of Tampa. At the ceremony, several young children accompanied DeSantis and other politicians near the podium, with some holding signs bearing the governor’s “Protect Children/Support Parents” slogan. DeSantis gave the children the pens he used to sign the bill.
The White House, which has sparred with the DeSantis administration over a range of policies, has issued statements against the law. “My Administration will continue to fight for dignity and opportunity for every student and family — in Florida and around the country,” Biden tweeted Monday.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona recently held a call with LGBTQ students in Florida and said in a statement issued Monday that his agency “will be monitoring this law upon implementation to evaluate whether it violates federal civil rights law.”