The highly controversial Florida Education Act, called “Do Not Say Gay,” officially went into effect on Friday, July 1, although government officials have not yet explained exactly what behaviors will be banned under the new rules.
The measure allegedly affirms parental rights by banning discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. But it is written in vague terms that obscure the scope of the law.
Schools in the Orlando area apparently do not take chances. According to WFTV, a local ABC affiliate, Orange County Public Schools held a meeting between district attorneys and principals to discuss behaviors that would no longer be acceptable to the youngest students.
The district’s teachers’ union rang alarm bells at the news station. E-mail correspondence posted on the Orange Classroom Teachers Association website discusses how K-3 teachers and school staff are advised not to wear rainbows and to take any photos of their desks from same-sex partners or family members. They were also encouraged not to talk about their same-sex partner with students, and not to respect the pronouns that gender-non-conforming students want to use.
A district representative told WFTV the guidance was only meant to protect the schools and staff – including teacher licenses – until the state clarified what kind of behavior is actually covered by the law.
Multiple attempts to reach administrators of Orange County schools on Friday were unsuccessful.
Schools also ensure their bookshelves meet: Palm Beach County instructs teachers to draw LGBTQ-friendly books that could violate the state’s new law, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported earlier this year.
Other parts of the new law are even less clear. It contains provisions that appear to apply to all grade levels that require schools to notify parents of changes to students’ mental and emotional health, which may involve gender identity or sexuality.
This week, schools in the Tallahassee area adopted a new policy that parents will be notified when a “pupil who is open about their gender identity” – presumably a reference to non-conforming students, rather than students who say they cisgender is – go use their child’s dressing room or take part in an overnight outing.
Although the guide approved by the Leon County School Board states that no student’s gender identity should be shared without their “input and consent”, some were concerned that the policy could be used to pressure students who are not willing to share their identity to discuss.
The Florida Department of Education did not say when it would release guidance on the law, and indicated in one memo that the department had an entire school year – until June 2023 – before it had to roll out new rules.
To wait that long is likely to sow confusion and even more discord among students and teachers, many of whom took outings to protest against the law much earlier this year.
The State Department of Education did not immediately return a request for comment.
State Representative Carlos Smith, a Democrat who says he is the first openly gay state representative, told NBC News he is not surprised that some schools err on the side of extreme caution.
“What is happening at the moment – with the censorship of rainbow flags and school districts preparing to basically push LGBTQ students and teachers into the closet – is exactly what we said would happen with the ‘Do Not Gay’ law,” Smith said. said to the outlet. .