Students in Florida are just over a month away from the start of their next school year, with some school districts planning their first day of the 2022-23 school year as early as August 10.
But the 2022 legislative session introduced a series of highly controversial laws that could reshape Florida’s education system, for better or worse.
These new measures include laws that ban the teaching of certain history lessons, limit classroom discussions of issues involving the LGBTQ+ community, and even remove books from school libraries.
Each of these bills, as well as a few others, will come into force on Friday. So when students in Florida enter the classroom on the first day of the 2022-23 school year, they will enter a new, more restrained educational environment.
Andrew Spar, president of the statewide teachers’ union, the Florida Education Association, said these education bills create “a lot of questions, a lot of confusion, and a lot of unknowns” for teachers. ‘school year.
“And it’s never good to try to plan,” Spar told the Phoenix.
In several press conferences since the session, Governor Ron DeSantis has insisted that these new laws ensure Florida’s education system is focused on “education, not indoctrination,” and that parents should have a say in what their children are exposed to. Florida schools.
Here’s a rundown of some of these new laws, effective July 1.
- HB 1557: Parental Rights in Education. The law, signed by DeSantis March 28, prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools from kindergarten through third grade, or in a manner that is not age or developmentally appropriate according to standards of State. LGBTQ+ advocates call it the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law, fearing that the bill’s vague language could stifle discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in the classroom.
- HB 7: Individual freedom. The law, signed on April 22, limits how workplaces and classrooms discuss race and gender and prohibits the teaching of concepts such as: “An individual, because of his race, color, sex or national origin, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.” Sometimes called the “Stop WOKE Act,” the new restrictions will lead to watering down discussions of US history, including issues of race, critics say.
- HB 1467: Kindergarten to Grade 12 Education. The law, signed on March 25, is marketed as a way for parents to get more involved in how school districts approve library books and instructional materials. In public testimony during the session, supporters of HB 1467 referenced the removal of material involving LGBTQ+ issues, leading some critics to believe this was another attack on this community and call the legislation a ‘book ban’.
What will happen to Florida schools?
School districts must interpret new laws in preparation for the school year.
On Tuesday, the Leon County School District endured hours of public testimony before finally approving new guidelines on how to welcome LGBTQ+ studentsespecially transgender children, while adhering to new laws such as HB 1557.
Some speakers felt that the new guidelines did not sufficiently take into account parents who do not want their child to be around transgender students. Others, including some LGBTQ+ students, felt it didn’t go far enough to protect some of the most vulnerable children.
“I know the school districts have tried to figure it out. I know a lot of our members are trying to figure out what they can and can’t do,” Spar told The Phoenix.
“We’ve seen school districts across the state of Florida try to give advice and then reverse that advice or opt out of that advice. And I think that continues to show how much confusion there really is around these new laws,” he said.
What makes the situation murkier is that some of these policies have been challenged in court, meaning their implications remain unresolved.
How will students be affected?
It is unclear whether the school year will be radically different from previous years, Spar believes.
“What we continue to tell our members is that as educators, we have an ethical and moral responsibility to ensure that we protect, love and support the students who ride our school buses or our school campuses,” he said.
He advised teachers to continue to support their students “until the Ministry of Education issues guidance to the contrary”.
However, Lakey Love, a non-binary activist who is a co-founder of the Florida Coalition for Transgender Liberation, noted that some students may be more sensitive to change than others. Love uses pronouns.
“I think it will depend on who the student is,” they told the Phoenix. “HB 1557 (Parental Rights in Education) and HB 1467 (K-12 Education) were put in place to keep white and privileged, straight, cisgender students apart and ignorant of their privileges so that systems of discrimination can Continue.”
The love continued:
“So if you’re blind to white privilege and what you’re doing to continue a structure of racism, then these bills won’t affect you like you won’t notice. But if you’re black, brown, immigrant, or LGBTQ, you’ll feel – you already feel the oppression and marginalization and now it’s going to expand.
The legislation will “destroy public education,” Love said.
“It does this by targeting the most vulnerable and marginalized student population in the public school system — that is, black, brown, immigrant, and LGBTQ+ students,” Love told the Phoenix. “It destroys the ability to teach critical thinking and to teach students about diversity, inclusivity and truth about our history and our political system as it exists today. ”
Spar said the new laws contributed to some teachers feeling unappreciated or disrespected.
“The thing is, a lot of these laws really start with an accusation against teachers — that teachers teach kids to be gay. whites to hate each other. That teachers are “preparers”.
He added, “These are things that have been said by people across the state, and even some of these comments from our governor. And so, it certainly put a strain on the profession.
“I know dozens of teachers who have left the school system,” Love told the Phoenix. “They don’t want to be complicit in the system that fuels hate and prevents them from doing their real work.”
–Danielle J. Brown, Florida Phoenix