July 21st, 2024

Sexual orientation, gender ID can be talked about in Florida classrooms under lawsuit settlement

By Mike Schneider, The Associated Press on March 11, 2024.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives brief remarks at the end of the 2024 Florida Legislative Session, Friday, March 8, 2024, in Tallahassee, Fla. (Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Students and teachers will be able to speak freely about sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida classrooms, provided it’s not part of instruction, under a settlement reached Monday between Florida education officials and civil rights attorneys who had challenged a state law which critics dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.”

The settlement clarifies what is allowed in Florida classrooms following passage two years ago of the law prohibiting instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades. Opponents said the law had created confusion about whether teachers could identity themselves as LGBTQ+ or if they even could have rainbow stickers in classrooms.

Under the terms of the settlement, the Florida Board of Education will send instructions to every school district saying the Florida law doesn’t prohibit discussing LGBTQ+ people, nor prevent anti-bullying rules on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or disallow Gay-Straight Alliance groups. The settlement also spells out that the law is neutral – meaning what applies to LGBTQ+ people also applies to heterosexual people – and that it doesn’t apply to library books not being used in the classroom.

“What this settlement does, is, it re-establishes the fundamental principal, that I hope all Americans agree with, which is every kid in this country is entitled to an education at a public school where they feel safe, their dignity is respected and where their families and parents are welcomed,” Roberta Kaplan, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said in an interview. “This shouldn’t be a controversial thing.”

In a statement, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s 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 and it is expected that the case will be dismissed by the Court imminently,” the statement said.

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Follow Mike Schneider on X, formerly known as Twitter: @MikeSchneiderAP.

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