DeSantis Wants ‘Don’t Say Gay’ to Apply to High Schools Now

“It was never, ever, ever, ever about kindergarten thru 3rd grade,” former Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said Wednesday.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to Iowa voters gathered at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on March 10, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Florida is moving to ban most classroom instruction on sexuality and gender in public schools through the entire K-12 system, just the latest “anti-woke” culture war move from likely 2024 presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis.


DeSantis signed a law last year called “Parental Rights in Education,” which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law; it banned classroom instruction on gender and sexuality for students through third grade. 

The law also said that the state would determine standards for older students by June 2023. A new rule released in the Florida Administrative Register this month would extend the ban for students in fourth through 12th grade, unless the lesson is required by state academic standards, or is “part of a reproductive health course or health lesson for which a student’s parent has the option to have his or her student not attend.” 

The state Department of Education introduced the new rule, which will be voted on by the Florida Board of Education, a body controlled by DeSantis appointees. The Orlando Sentinel first reported the change

When the law was debated last year, the bill’s authors argued  they were attempting to protect young children; former state Rep. Joe Harding, the bill’s primary sponsor in the House, told CNN last January that he didn’t want to “force so many questions on gender on these children at that age.” After signing the law, however, DeSantis said in an interview with Fox News last April that “things like woke gender ideology have no place in schools, period.” 


There was scant evidence that “woke gender ideology” was rampant in Florida elementary schools before DeSantis made it a major part of his political platform. Activists argued the true intent and effect of the law and others like it was to produce a chilling effect on young LGBTQ+ people and their potential allies among school faculty and staff.

Now, they say, DeSantis and his allies are attempting to alienate LGBTQ+ students and teachers even further.  

“It was never, ever, ever, ever about kindergarten thru 3rd grade,” former Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, now a staffer at Equality Florida, tweeted Wednesday. “It was always about demonizing us and censoring LGBTQ people out of existence in our schools.”

During a White House press briefing yesterday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the proposal to extend the law “completely, utterly wrong.” 

“It’s not just the LGBTQI+ community,” she said. “We’re talking about students.  We’re talking about educators. We’re talking about, just, individuals.”

Since Florida passed the law, dozens of states have introduced their own versions. The North Carolina Senate passed its own “Don’t Say Gay” bill in February, and a bill banning classroom instruction on sexuality and gender in all grades was debated in the Missouri House earlier this month. The bill’s author said during the discussion that teachers would likely be barred from explaining the 2015 Obergefell v Hodges Supreme Court decision, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and Ambassador to the United Nations who has launched a longshot bid for president, said last month that Florida’s Don’t Say Gay law doesn’t go “far enough” to crack down on discussions about gender and sexuality in public schools. 

“We should not be talking to kids in elementary school about gender, period,” Haley told Fox News after a town hall in New Hampshire. 

Harding, the bill’s sponsor, was indicted last December for laundering small business loans for COVID relief through two “dormant” companies. He pleaded guilty Wednesday to wire fraud and money laundering charges. 

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