In secret, behind locked gates, our Nation's Oldest City dumped a landfill in a lake (Old City Reservoir), while emitting sewage in our rivers and salt marsh. Organized citizens exposed and defeated pollution, racism and cronyism. We elected a new Mayor. We're transforming our City -- advanced citizenship. Ask questions. Make disclosures. Demand answers. Be involved. Expect democracy. Report and expose corruption. Smile! Help enact a St. Augustine National Park and Seashore. We shall overcome!
Wednesday, April 19, 2023
ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: Florida bans teaching about gender identity in all public schools. (WaPo)
Kulturkampf. Florida, 2023.
From The Washington Post:
Florida bans teaching about gender identity in all public schools
It expands an existing ban. Experts say it imperils free speech and could affect curriculums in English, history and other classes.
The Florida Board of Education has forbidden the teaching of gender identity and sexuality throughout all grades in K-12 public schools, extending a nearly year-old legislative ban on such lessons from kindergarten through third grade.
The board voted Wednesday to adopt a new rule that says Florida teachers in grades 4 through 12 “shall not intentionally provide classroom instruction … on sexual orientation or gender identity” unless this instruction is required by state academic standards — it is not — or the lessons form “part of a reproductive health course” from which a student’s parent can opt out their child.
Reproductive health lessons are unlikely to mention sexual orientation or gender identity, Florida Chancellor for K-12 Public Schools Paul Burns said at the meeting Wednesday, given that “abstinence is the required expectation of what we teach in our schools” when it comes to health classes.
Teachers who violate the ban could see their teaching licenses suspended or revoked, per the rule. An Education Department spokeswoman wrote in an email Wednesday that the rule will take effect about a month from now. Department spokesman Alex Lanfranconi wrote in a statement that “the topics of gender identity and sexual orientation have no place in the classroom” and that “today’s state board action reaffirms Florida’s commitment to uphold parental rights and keep indoctrination out of our schools.”
Florida Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. said shortly before the vote that the rule will grant teachers a better understanding of what they are allowed to teach — or not.
“The state has the purview, this board has the purview over our standards in our schools pre-K through 12,” he said. “None of these issues that are being talked about are in our standards … all we are doing is setting expectations [that] teachers are to teach to the standards.”
The rule builds on a law enacted in early 2022, the Parental Rights in Education Act, that outlawed classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3 and required that lessons on these issues remain “developmentally appropriate” for older grades.
The board’s passage of the rule drew immediate outrage from LGBTQ advocates and education experts, who slammed the restrictions as likely to chill teachers’ speech, confuse educators about what they are permitted to teach across a wide variety of subjects and cause harm to LGBTQ children.
During public comment before the vote, Joe Saunders, senior political director for Equality Florida, asked the board whether its members believed it would be wrong to teach students in an 11th-grade civics course about the landmark Supreme Court ruling that granted the right to marry to same-sex couples.
“Under the vague new rules, a teacher who taught this would be fired and their career would end,” Saunders said. “This rule is by design a tool for curating fear, anxiety and the erasure of our LGBTQ community.”
But dozens of Floridians, many of them wearing Moms for Liberty T-shirts, shared support during the meeting’s public-comment period, praising it as a common-sense measure that will allow parents to better shape their child’s upbringing when it comes to sensitive societal and cultural issues.
“These decisions should be left at home for parents to decide when and if their children are exposed to this material,” said Ryan Kennedy of the education advocacy group Florida Citizens Alliance.
The rule will not require legislative approval. The Republican-dominated state legislature is separately considering a bill that would have extended the ban on gender identity and sexual orientation lessons in a narrower way, through eighth grade — one of a half-dozen bills proposed this legislative session that would reshape K-12 and higher education in Florida, from requiring teachers to use pronouns matching children’s sex as assigned at birth to nixing job protections for tenured faculty.
The flurry of legislation in Florida comes as GOP lawmakers nationwide are introducing and passing a historic number of bills targeting LGBTQ rights, according to a Washington Post analysis. The legislation seeks to exclude transgender people from prisons, domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers that align with their gender identities — and, in the school context, from athletic teams, locker rooms and bathrooms that do not match their sex as assigned at birth.
In Florida, the wave of education bills aligns closely with the vision of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who seeks to eliminate the influence of what he calls left-leaning, “woke” ideologies, for example school programs meant to boost diversity, equity and inclusion.A DeSantis spokesman referred a request for comment Wednesday to the Department of Education.
The members of the Florida Board of Education are appointed by the governor, with the consent of the Senate, to serve four-year terms. DeSantis appointed all of the board’s seven members.
Experts predicted the rule will lead to classroom chaos and self-censorship as teachers struggle to understand what it means for their pedagogy.
“This is the kind of [thing] that drives teachers from classrooms,” said Heather Hill, a professor of teacher learning and practice at Harvard. “It’s de-professionalizing. Teachers lose the freedom to teach in ways that meet the needs of their students.”
Hill noted that the wording of the rule is vague; in a key example, the term “intentionally” is difficult to define in a classroom setting, she said. She said teachers will be terrified they might fall afoul of the rule.
The rule likely does not violate teachers’ free speech rights, said Suzanne Eckes, a professor of education law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She noted that, in 2006, the Supreme Court issued a decisive ruling in Garcetti v. Carbellos that established that public-school teachers’ First Amendment rights are very limited in the K-12 classroom setting.
“Subsequent federal courts have explained that teachers are required to follow the approved curriculum,” she said.
On Wednesday, Florida Board of Education members sought to allay fears about teacher censorship by framing the rule as a simple exercise in clarification.
“We’ve heard a lot, but this really isn’t a complicated thing,” said member Esther Byrd. “We’re just making sure everyone is on the same page about what we should be learning.”