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HomeGeneralFlorida Lawsuit Settlement Allows Classroom Discussion of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity

Florida Lawsuit Settlement Allows Classroom Discussion of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity

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Florida education officials, LGBTQ advocates, and families reached a legal settlement on Monday, March 11, 2024. The settlement clarifies the statute’s scope, which critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” law. Before the settlement, the law banned schools from discussing gender identity in classrooms.

A picture of advocates protesting the classroom ban on gender identity discussions
Source: Pinterest

The new settlement spells out that students and teachers can freely talk about sexual orientation in classrooms. However, provided it is not part of formal instruction. The settlement clarifies what Florida allows in classrooms after the law passed two years ago, prohibiting instruction on sexual orientation.

It also banned the discussion of gender identity in early grades. Following its passage, opponents said the law created confusion about whether teachers could identify as LGBTQ+. Many didn’t know whether they could have rainbow stickers in classrooms.

Days After Florida Governor Ron DeSantis passed the law in March 2022, many challenged it. More than a dozen plaintiffs, including civil rights organizations, parents, students, and teachers, challenged the statute in a lawsuit. They argued against the legislation’s “vague” language.

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Furthermore, they claimed it would have a chilling effect on discussions of LGBTQ topics in schools. Also, they said educators grappled with confusion and fear over how, if, they could address such themes in their classrooms.

The original “Parental Rights in Education” law prohibited the instruction of sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten through third grade. Also, it restricted discussing the topics “in a manner that is not age appropriate” in all other grades.

However, a year later, the Florida education board voted to expand the restriction to include all grades. Consequently, teachers who violated the state policy faced suspension or risked losing their teaching licenses.

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Fortunately, the Monday settlement clarifies the law only applies to formal classroom instruction. It does not restrict discussions of gender or sexuality that may arise during class participation or students’ schoolwork. Following its passage in 2022, other states used the law as a template to pass prohibitions on sexual orientation in schools. 

Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, and North Carolina are among the states that have versions of the law. Under the terms of the new settlement, the Florida Board of Education will send instructions to every school district.

The message will clarify that Florida law doesn’t prohibit discussing LGBTQ+ people nor prevent anti-bullying rules based on sexual orientation. Also, it doesn’t prevent gender identity or disallow Gay-Straight Alliance groups.

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In addition, the settlement claims that the law is neutral, meaning it also applies to heterosexual people and doesn’t apply to using library books in the classroom. In a statement, DeSantis’ office described the deal as a “major win” with the law remaining intact.

“Today’s mutually agreed settlement ensures that the law will remain in effect,” the statement said. “And it is expected that the Court will dismiss the case imminently.” Similarly, Roberta Kaplan, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, celebrated the settlement. 

Kaplan described it as a “major victory for the thousands of LGBTQ+ students, teachers, parents, and their allies throughout Florida.”

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