Florida education board approves new rules on gender identity, sexual orientation instruction in cla

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Florida's Board of Education put new limits on the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation in all public schools Wednesday afternoon.

Under threat of license revocation or suspension, fourth through 12th grade educators are forbidden from "intentionally" offering "classroom instruction" on sexual orientation or gender identity outside optional health classes— or where "expressly required by state academic standards."

The change comes on top of last year's law, Parental Rights in Education, banning instruction of the topics entirely in K through 3rd-grade classrooms.

Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. said the state board was trying to "provide clarity" to Florida's teachers about what they can and can't do.

"It should be taught within the standards and this provides clarity," Diaz said. "It's not changing anything. All it's saying is that you are complying with our standards— and that's what you should be teaching."

But concerns remain, especially for the LGBTQ+ community. Many at the board meeting worried they, or their children, could be censored.

Civil rights advocates at Equality Florida warned the rule doesn't define "classroom instruction," leaving teachers with a dangerous vagueness.

"Teachers, removing books from their classrooms, taking down safe space stickers because they don't know where the boundaries are," Jon Harris Maurer with Equality Florida said. "In an abundance of caution, we're seeing this chilling effect where teachers are self-censoring."

The changes are expected to take effect in the coming weeks. Officials said parents, teachers and students would have more than 30 days, at least, to prepare.