WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is making his opposition to the controversial "Parental Rights in Education" bill making its way through the Florida Legislature known.
The legislation, dubbed the "don't say gay bill" by critics, would, in part, prohibit a school district from encouraging discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom at primary grade levels or in a manner that isn't age and developmentally appropriate for kids.
"I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community — especially the kids who will be impacted by this hateful bill — to know that you are loved and accepted just as you are. I have your back, and my Administration will continue to fight for the protections and safety you deserve," Biden tweeted Tuesday.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki echoed the president's sentiments while addressing the media Tuesday, saying:
"Every parent, as one myself too, hopes that our leaders will ensure their children’s safety, protection, and freedom. And today, conservative politicians in Florida rejected those basic values by advancing legislation that is designed to target and attack the kids who need the support — support the most: kids from the LGBTQI+ community who are already vulnerable to bullying — and we’ve seen that in study after study — and violence, just for being themselves and just for being who they are."
Psaki adds that Florida isn't the only state the administration has seen Republican leaders taking action in an effort to regulate what students can and cannot read, learn or be.
"This is who these kids are. And these — these legislators are trying to make it harder for them to be who they are," she said.
On the other side, supporters of the proposed law argue it will help ensure conversations with children are age-appropriate.
Under the bills, district school boards would be required to do the following:
- Adopt procedures that notify a student's parents of specified information.
- Reinforce the fundamental rights of parents to make decisions about their child's upbringing.
- Prevent personnel from withholding specified information from parents.
"My purpose with this is to give, really, some relief to the school staff that they're not responsible for every issue in every person's life," said Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley (R), who sponsored the Senate version of the bill.
Gov. Ron DeSantis was asked about SB 1834. The Republican governor noted that he hasn't read through the bill himself but maintains that he believes the legislature is trying to point out that things discussed in schools should be age-appropriate.
"At the end of the day, you know, my goal is to educate kids on the subjects —math, reading, science — all the things that are so important," DeSantis said Tuesday. "I don’t want the schools to kind of be a playground for ideological disputes or to try to inject."
A House version of the bill, HB 1557, is also under consideration. If passed, the bill would become law on July 1, 2022. If that happens, it would allow parents to sue over violations.