Questions loom as ‘Parental Rights In Education’ law goes into effect Friday

Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 4:41 PM EDT
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More than 100 new laws are set to take effect in Florida on Friday, many of which will impact our classrooms.

Most notable is the "Parental Rights In Education" law which critics call the "Don't Say Gay" measure.

The law bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, or in a way that is not age appropriate for older students.

Leaders in the School District of Palm Beach County sent a letter to teachers in May, asking them to go through their classroom libraries and remove books that may be questionable.

READ: Letter to Palm Beach County teachers

Palm Beach County public school leaders also said more guidance for teachers is coming.

"I feel that with this 'Parental Bill Of Rights,' it gives us the opportunity to have conversations with teachers again," said Palm Beach County parent Sean Sykes.

Sykes, a father of four children, believes the controversial new law will strengthen the communication between parents and teachers.

But not everyone sees it that way.

"Teachers are very much in the lurch," said Scott Galvin, the executive director of Safe Schools South Florida.

Galvin on Wednesday led a Zoom conversation with more than 100 teachers across the state to help give guidance on the new rules that many call vague and without clear direction.

"A lot of the questions were coming from teachers who were wondering the basic stuff," Galvin said. "Can I have a picture of my wife on my desk? Can I ask students about pronouns? Can I put rainbow flags up in my school?"

School District of Palm Beach County leaders asked teachers to remove books from their classrooms that were pulled for review, including "I Am Jazz" and "Call Me Max," both of which address transgender issues.

The May 26 letter then asked teachers to go through a checklist for other books in their classroom to see if they could violate new state laws.

A spokesperson for the governor's office has said "the law does not prohibit student-prompted discussion in the classroom" and "does not prohibit teachers from responding to student questions."

But Galvin feels that still leaves a gray area.

"Document if something happens," Galvin said. "Document it, because even if the student who asked the question first, the parent at home who can now sue the school district could interpret that conversation, no matter who initiated it, as against state law."

"Maybe sometimes, the best things are left unsaid," Sykes said. "Because if you are unsure, then you are going to put your belief or your persuasion on that topic. And so it's better left unsaid. And there are things in here that 100% should be taught at home."

WFLX confirmed the Florida Department of Education sent a letter to school district superintendents on June 6, telling them the law will only impact students in kindergarten through third grade immediately.

The DOE said it needs to develop guidelines for what is considered "age appropriate" for older students before that portion of the law takes effect.

READ: Letter from Florida Department of Education

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