Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a controversial bill that will bar classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades, characterizing the measure as a way to “protect students” and “support parents.”
Lawmakers approved the measure (HB 1557) during this year’s legislative session after heated debates and protesters converging on the Capitol. Dubbed by opponents as the “don’t say gay” bill, it has drawn national attention.
The bill has also drawn protests across the state and in Southwest Florida.
DeSantis signed the bill at a charter school in Spring Hill, flanked by Republican lawmakers and parents who said school employees had concealed information about issues such as taking steps to help facilitate children’s gender transition.
An army of schoolchildren was by DeSantis’ side as he signed the legislation.
The governor’s assertion drew an immediate rebuke from Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Plantation.
“Dismissive and uninformed Republicans (claim) the reason for national outrage is because we haven’t read the bill. We read it. So did medical professionals, educators, community leaders and parents. It is an attack on Florida’s LGBTQ+ community and our teachers,” Book said in a statement.
Fueled by the “don’t say gay” label, the bill has drawn high-profile attention, including being parodied on “Saturday Night Live” and lampooned Sunday night by actors at the Oscars. The Walt Disney Company released a statement after the bill’s signing that said the legislation “should never have passed” or received the governor’s signature.
But DeSantis hit back against Hollywood and corporations that have opposed the bill.
“Parents have a fundamental role in the education, health care and well-being of their children. We will not move from that. I don’t care what corporate media outlets say. I don’t care what Hollywood says. I don’t care what big corporations say,” the governor said during Monday’s bill-signing event.
Republican backers of the overall bill have argued that it is aimed at ensuring that schools do not “drive a wedge” between parents and children. The bill was given the title “Parental Rights in Education.”
“It’s about protecting parents’ ability to be involved, and it’s making sure the classroom instruction, particularly at these very young ages, are focused on math, science and reading,” DeSantis said.
State Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, who joined DeSantis at the bill-signing event, said the Department of Education will begin work crafting regulations related to the bill, which will take effect in July.
“Once this bill is signed, now we can go and, whether it’s the standards, whether it’s the curriculum, whether it’s the professional development, work it out so that people have that clear understanding,” Corcoran said, adding that the bill sets “clear guardrails” about what is appropriate in the classroom.
President Biden treating his reaction to the bill becoming law and said every student deserves to feel safe and welcomed in the classroom.
He said he would fight for every student’s dignity but did not specify how.
Every student deserves to feel safe and welcome in the classroom. Our LGBTQI+ youth deserve to be affirmed and accepted just as they are. My Administration will continue to fight for dignity and opportunity for every student and family — in Florida and around the country.
— President Biden (@POTUS) March 28, 2022