Florida officials are expected on Wednesday to consider largely prohibiting classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in all grades, expanding on a law signed by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis that barred such lessons for elementary-age students.
The proposed rule, which does not require legislative approval, is part of a broader rightward push on cultural issues that DeSantis has championed for what is widely expected to be a 2024 presidential campaign.
The state board of education, whose members are appointed by the governor, will vote on the proposal at a meeting on Wednesday, according to the agenda.
The new regulation would bar teachers from providing such lessons to students in grades four through 12, unless the instruction is required by state standards or is part of a health class that parents can opt their children out of.
Violating the rule could result in the suspension or revocation of an educator’s teaching license.
Last year, DeSantis backed a new law that barred instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten through third grade, arguing that parents, rather than teachers, should decide when to discuss those subjects with their children.
Critics, including LGBTQ advocates and President Joe Biden, a Democrat, have termed it the “Don’t Say Gay” law and said it marginalizes LGBTQ students.
The statute prompted a fight between DeSantis and Disney, after the entertainment company publicly opposed it. The governor has since taken steps to revoke Disney’s special authority over the land where Walt Disney World is located.
Brandon Wolf, a spokesperson for Equality Florida, an LGBTQ advocacy group, said DeSantis is targeting LGBTQ students to boost his national political fortunes.
“It’s clear he wants this to be his calling card,” Wolf said.
A spokesperson for DeSantis referred questions to the state department of education. A departmental spokesperson pointed to a March 22 Twitter post from Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz that read, “Students should be spending their time in school learning core academic subjects, not being force-fed radical gender and sexual ideology.”
The Republican-majority legislature is separately considering a bill that would expand the 2022 law through eighth grade.