Lawmakers in Florida have introduced a “Parental Rights in Education” bill that would give parents more control over what their children learn in school, and ensure schools are transparent about sex ed conversations teachers or administrators have with students.

The bill, HB 1557, would require school district to do several things. According to a summary provided by Florida House of Representatives, the bill:

  • Requires that school districts adopt procedures for notifying parents if there is a change in their student’s services or monitoring related to a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being.
  • Ensures that all procedures adopted under the bill must reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children.
  • Prohibits school districts from maintaining procedures that withhold information, or encourage students to withhold information, related to a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being from parents.
  • Restricts discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity to only those that are age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate for students while prohibiting a school district from encouraging discussions of these topics in primary grades.
  • Creates a cause of action for parents that permits them to enforce their rights through declaratory and injunctive relief.

The bill’s stipulation prohibiting schools from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity with students in primary grades is a far cry from the backwards sexual education policy adopted by the state of Illinois.

In the Prairie State, legislators recently passed a bill mandating that kindergartners learn about “gender identity” and “same-gender” families.

Back in the Sunshine State, HB 1557 is being considered by the Florida House of Representatives and was recently reported favorably by the House Education & Employment Committee following a 15-5 vote. Now, the bill is being considered by the House Judiciary Committee.

There is a similar bill, SB 1834, which is being considered in the Florida state Senate. The Senate’s Education Committee recently reported the bill to the entire Senate following a 6-3 vote in favor of the bill.

If the House bill passes both chambers and is approved by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, it will take effect on July 1, 2022.

Governor DeSantis has recently voiced his support for the bill.

“At the end of the day, you know, my goal is to educate kids on the subjects – math, reading, science – all the things that are so important,” the governor recently said. “I don’t want the schools to kind of be a playground for ideological disputes or to try to inject [that].”

“To keep parents out and to keep them in the dark, I don’t think that that’s something, you know that works very well,” he added.

The bill is designed to ensure that when it comes to matters of sexual education, parents are informed and involved in their child’s development.

HB 1557 would prevent situations like what happened to January Littlejohn, a licensed mental health counselor and stay-at-home mom in Florida.

During public comments on the bill, Littlejohn said that her daughter had a discussion with school administrators about her restroom preference, but the school wouldn’t share any information about that discussion without the daughter’s permission.

“After many weeks of going back and forth with the district, we learned the middle school had created a transgender, gender nonconforming support plan with our 13-year-old daughter without our knowledge or consent,” Littlejohn said.

Parents have the right to be intensely involved in their child’s education. And when that education touches on even more important and weighty matters, like sex ed for example, a parent’s involvement becomes all the more essential.

If you’re concerned about what your child may be learning in school, and want to take practical step to protect them, check out Focus on the Family’s new free resource, Back to School for Parents: A busy parent’s guide to what’s happening in your children’s classrooms and practical steps you can take to protect them.

Related articles and resources:

Back to School for Parents

Virginia Senate Passes Bill Requiring Parents be Notified of ‘Sexually Explicit’ Content in Classrooms

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