White House slams Florida’s parental rights bill as it takes effect: ‘This is discrimination’

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The White House slammed Florida’s parental rights bill as it went into effect Friday, calling the measure “discrimination” and part of a “disturbing and dangerous” trend across the nation of Republican politicians “cynically targeting LGBTQI+” individuals to “score political points.” 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law in March that would ban teachers from giving classroom instruction on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade.

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White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre slammed the measure as it went into effect Friday saying some of Florida’s “most vulnerable students and families are more fearful and less free.” 

“As the state’s shameful ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law takes effect, state officials who claim to champion liberty are limiting the freedom of their fellow Americans simply to be themselves,” she said. “Already, there have been reports that ‘Safe Space’ stickers are being taken down from classrooms. Teachers are being instructed not to wear rainbow clothing. LGBTQI+ teachers are being told to take down family photos of their husbands and wives—cherished family photos like the ones on my own desk.”

Jean-Pierre said this is “not an issue of ‘parents’ rights.’”

U.S. press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 16, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
(REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein)

“This is discrimination, plain and simple,” she said. “It’s part of a disturbing and dangerous nationwide trend of right-wing politicians cynically targeting LGBTQI+ students, educators, and individuals to score political points.”

Jean-Pierre also said the measure “encourages bullying and threatens students’ mental health, physical safety, and well-being.” 

“It censors dedicated teachers and educators who want to do the right thing and support their students,” she said. “And it must stop.” 

Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden has “been very clear that every student deserves to feel safe and welcome in the classroom.” 

U.S. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, U.S. February 24, 2022. 

U.S. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, U.S. February 24, 2022. 
(Reuters)

She announced that the Department of Education plans to monitor the law, and said that “any student or parent who believes they are experiencing discrimination is encouraged to file a complaint with the Department’s Office for Civil Rights.” 

“Our Administration will continue to fight for dignity and opportunity for every student and family—in Florida and around the country,” she said.

The initial bill was dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by Democrats who falsely claim it bans any discussion pertaining to being gay in the state’s schools. 

TAMPA, FL - MARCH 26: Revelers celebrate on 7th Avenue during the Tampa Pride Parade in the Ybor City neighborhood on March 26, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

TAMPA, FL – MARCH 26: Revelers celebrate on 7th Avenue during the Tampa Pride Parade in the Ybor City neighborhood on March 26, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Octavio Jones/Getty Images)
(Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

The law does prohibit classroom instruction on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” with children in third grade or younger, “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

The law does not ban the word “gay” in school settings, and it does not ban casual discussions of topics relating to sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom, and does not require schools to notify parents if their child comes out as gay or transgender.

It also does not require schools to notify parents of information regarding the student’s mental, emotional, or physical well-being “if a reasonably prudent person would believe that disclosure would result in abuse, abandonment, or neglect.”

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The law does require school districts to adopt procedures that “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children in a specified manner” and prohibit classroom instruction, not casual discussion, on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” with children in third grade or younger, “or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

Members and supporters of the LGBTQ community attend the "Say Gay Anyway" rally in Miami Beach, Florida on March 13, 2022.

Members and supporters of the LGBTQ community attend the “Say Gay Anyway” rally in Miami Beach, Florida on March 13, 2022.
(CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

The law also does require school districts to notify a student’s parent if there is a change “in the student’s services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being and the school’s ability to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for the student,” and prohibits schools from “encouraging a student to withhold” such information from a parent.

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The law also does require school districts to notify parents of each health care service offered at their student’s school and the option to withhold consent or decline any specific service, require that parents be allowed to access their child’s educational or health records kept by the school, and require the school to get parental permission before administering a well-being questionnaire or health screening to students in kindergarten through third grade.

The law also requires schools to respond to a parent’s concerns within seven days of being notified of those concerns, and the school must resolve those concerns within 30 days. If the issue is not resolved, parents can then sue the school district or request the state Commissioner of Education to appoint a special magistrate to mediate a solution, which the school district must pay for.

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