According to a report last month on FOX News, the Florida State Board of Education adopted new rules that provide for the revocation or suspension of the licenses of teachers who teach students in kindergarten through third grade about gender or sexuality.
Although the new rule gives the state the authority to revoke or suspend teaching licenses if educators violate Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which was signed by Gov Ron DeSantis earlier this year, Education Week reported that the state board did not respond to requests for information about the precise conditions under which licenses would be suspended or revoked.
Specifically, the new rule states: “Violation of any of these principles [including: ‘Shall not intentionally provide classroom instruction to students in kindergarten through grade 3 on sexual orientation or gender identity’] shall subject the individual [teacher or administrator] to revocation or suspension of the individual educator’s certificate, or the other penalties as provided by law.”
The law in Florida is clear: Don’t mention gender or sexuality to students in kindergarten through grade 3. Although I would not condone teachers violating state law, including laws that carry a tinge of common sense or even superfluousness, the law itself, on its face, seems to restrict the freedom of expression while also giving a silent wink to those who would seek to destroy public schools, initially by planting seeds of distrust in classroom teachers.
The reality in schools in Florida and across the nation coming out of a global pandemic is that teachers are hard to find. Bullying teachers with laws that have nothing to do with reading, math, science, music, art, or other academic subjects to make them feel bad about how much they truly care about children, especially our youngest children, is a step in the wrong direction and reveals a gross misunderstanding on the part of public officials for the efficient and successful running of a public school. In addition, the law has deflected the focus of the state’s education leaders, if only for a moment, away from the advancement of rules that might actually improve the quality of education for students in their charge.
If eroding the quality of public schools is the goal, though, the law is well-intentioned and could help. If, on the other hand, the goal is to bolster the education we provide to the state’s children through good public schools, staffed by good educators, the law is wrong-headed.