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Florida teachers are allowed to talk about sexuality and gender identity in certain classrooms, according to a legal agreement that provides clarification

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Florida education officials and a group supporting LGBTQ rights and families have agreed on a legal resolution. This resolves concerns about a law often called the “Don’t Say Gay” law. It specifies that students and teachers can talk about sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms, as long as it’s not part of the formal teaching.

Several people, including civil rights groups, parents, students, and teachers, opposed the law in a lawsuit shortly after Governor Ron DeSantis signed it in March 2022. They argued that the law’s unclear language could make it challenging for educators to discuss LGBTQ topics in schools.

The original law, known as “Parental Rights in Education,” restricted teaching sexual orientation or gender identity to grades K-3 and limited discussions in higher grades to an “age-appropriate” manner. A year later, the Florida education board expanded the restriction to all grades. Teachers breaking this policy could face suspension or lose their teaching licenses.

The recent settlement makes it clear that the law only applies to formal classroom teaching. It doesn’t prevent discussions on gender or sexuality that naturally come up during class or student activities.

According to the settlement, teachers can respond to students sharing information about their same-sex parents, give feedback on student work about LGBTQ topics, or answer questions about their own LGBTQ relationships or family. The law also doesn’t stop school staff from intervening when a child faces bullying due to their gender or sexuality.

The lawyer for the plaintiffs, Roberta Kaplan, sees this settlement as a big win for LGBTQ+ students, teachers, parents, and allies in Florida. She emphasizes that it legitimizes gay student groups and protects against hate and bullying.

Equality Florida, a LGBTQ advocacy group, and Family Equality, a New York-based nonprofit, were among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Governor DeSantis’ office also considers the settlement a success, ensuring the law remains effective, and expects the court to dismiss the case soon.

The “Parental Rights in Education” law was part of a broader push by Republican lawmakers to limit discussions on pronouns, gender identity, and sexuality in classrooms. The settlement requires the Florida Board of Education to inform school districts about these clarifications. The law still prohibits teachers from using books to instruct students about sexual orientation and gender identity, but it doesn’t ban materials that mention LGBTQ topics, such as library books that are not part of “classroom instruction.” This clarification is crucial amid efforts to remove LGBTQ-related books from school libraries, seen as part of a broader conservative movement limiting LGBTQ rights and representation.

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