Florida teachers can talk gender ID after bill settlement is reached – USA TODAY

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. − A settlement has been reached between Florida education officials and civil rights attorneys who had challenged a state law that critics dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” − and both sides are claiming victory.
The settlement clarifies what is allowed in Florida classrooms after the passage two years ago of the law prohibiting instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades. Opponents said the law had created confusion about whether teachers could identify themselves as LGBTQ+ or whether they even could have rainbow stickers in classrooms.
LGBTQ+ advocacy groups that challenged the law said it was a “historic settlement” and “nullifies the most dangerous and discriminatory impacts.”
“Today’s settlement reaffirms the rights of Florida’s students and teachers to openly discuss and learn about LGBTQ+ people, marking a victory for free expression and inclusivity for LGBTQ+ students, families, and teachers alike,” said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, in a news release.
But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office framed things differently in an emailed statement that called the settlement “a major win against the activists who sought to stop Florida’s efforts to keep radical gender and sexual ideology out of the classrooms of public-school children.”
The office pointed out that as a result of the settlement, the case will be dismissed.
“We fought hard to ensure this law couldn’t be maligned in court, as it was in the public arena by the media and large corporate actors,” Ryan Newman, the governor’s general counsel, said in a statement.
DeSantis signed the law, the Parental Rights in Education Act, in 2022. The state expanded it last year to restrict classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Republican lawmakers had argued that parents should broach these subjects with children and that the law protected children from being taught about inappropriate material.
Groups including Equality Florida and Family Equality tried to overturn the law, but the attempts failed in federal court. Parents, teachers and students also joined in on the litigation.
They said the settlement, which was submitted Monday to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, makes clear that the law doesn’t bar classroom references to LGBTQ+ people and issues. It also does not prevent LGBTQ+ groups or anti-bullying measures.
The State Board of Education, which was sued along with the Department of Education, is required to send the agreement to every school district under the settlement terms.
Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill:After sparking national backlash, more legislation is brewing.
The law also doesn’t apply to books with incidental references to LGBTQ+ characters or same-sex couples, “as they are not instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity any more than a math problem asking students to add bushels of apples is instruction on apple farming,” according to the settlement.
“What this settlement does, is, it reestablishes the fundamental principle, that I hope all Americans agree with, which is every kid in this country is entitled to an education at a public school where they feel safe, their dignity is respected and where their families and parents are welcomed,” Roberta Kaplan, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said in an interview. “This shouldn’t be a controversial thing.”
Other states used the Florida law as a template to pass prohibitions on classroom instruction on gender identity or sexual orientation. Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky and North Carolina are among the states with versions of the law.
But opponents of the law said it created a chilling effect in classrooms. Some teachers said they were unsure whether they could mention or display a photo of their same-sex partner in the classroom. In some cases, books dealing with LGBTQ+ topics were removed from classrooms, and lines mentioning sexual orientation were excised from school musicals.
The Miami-Dade County School Board in 2022 decided not to adopt a resolution recognizing LGBTQ History Month, even though it had done so a year earlier.
The law also triggered legal battles between DeSantis and Disney over control of the governing district for Walt Disney World in central Florida after DeSantis took control of the government in what the company described as retaliation for its opposition to the legislation. DeSantis touted the fight with Disney during his run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, which he ended earlier this year.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This reporting content is supported by a partnership with Freedom Forum and Journalism Funding Partners. USA TODAY Network-Florida First Amendment reporter Douglas Soule can be reached at [email protected].

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