TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida lawmakers are reacting to a new amendment that would broaden the language of parental rights legislation that critics call the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.
Fla. Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, filed an amendment Friday to HB 1557, entitled ‘Parental Rights in Education,’ that would replace the ban on classroom instruction about “sexual orientation or gender identity” with the words “human sexuality or sexual activity.”
Fla. Rep. Joe Harding, R-Williston, told 8 On Your Side he supports the bill he authored.
“The bill we passed off the house floor is something I believe in 100%,” Harding said. “I trust the process, and I trust that it will all work out.”
Fla. Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, has been one of the most outspoken critics of the legislation as the legislature’s first out gay Hispanic representative.
Smith told 8 On Your Side he supports the new amendment.
“Brandes’ amendment would de-escalate opposition to the bill by removing language which singles out the LGBTQ community for censorship in the classroom,” Smith said. “It is a step in the right direction and I would urge Senators to support this change.”
Similar amendments filed to the bill in the House failed, but Brandes told 8 On Your Side on Friday that he expects “broad support for this amendment.”
House Bill 1557, entitled Parental Rights in Education, forces school districts to adopt procedures that “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children.”
That includes notifying parents if there are changes “related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being”; prohibiting policies that encourage students to withhold information from parents; allowing parents access to their child’s student records; giving parents the right to withhold consent for any healthcare services offered by the school; and obtaining permission from parents before administering any well-being questionnaire or health screening.
The bill also forces schools to respond to parent concerns within a week and resolve those issues within a month. If the school or district cannot or will not resolve the concern, parents can request a resolution from the Florida Commissioner of Education via appointment of a special magistrate. If adopted, parents would also be able to sue the school district for any violations of the new law.
The portion of the bill derided by critics who spawned its ‘Don’t Say Gay’ nickname currently states “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
Two sponsors of the bill are from Tampa Bay: Fla. Reps. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, and Randy Maggard, R-Dade City. Neither have returned 8 On Your Side’s requests for comment about the bill or this new amendment.
HB 1557, and Brandes’ amendment, will be heard in the Senate Appropriations committee on Monday at 10:30 a.m.