Critics hit WaPo report Florida schools are in 'confusion' over Ron DeSantis' parents rights rule

Parental Rights in Education law bans discussions of sexuality and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade

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Parents and social media users blasted a Washington Post piece that suggested schools were in a state of confusion over Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' new parent's rights policy.

DeSantis recently signed into law the Parental Rights in Education bill, which bans discussions of sexuality and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. Critics have misleadingly labeled the legislation the "Don't Say Gay" bill.

"Florida teachers race to remake lessons as DeSantis laws take effect," the recent Post headline that ruffled feathers read.

"The first day of school in Florida is less than two weeks away, but officials are still plagued by confusion and uncertainty about what a raft of new laws championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) will mean," the Post's Lori Rozsa wrote in the piece. 

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"The measures — aimed at eliminating what DeSantis calls ‘woke ideology’ in public schools — have parents, teachers, and students scrambling to figure out how to follow them and to also keep from being targeted by Floridians newly empowered to sue school boards," the piece continues.

Following the passage of the parents rights bill, Rozsa wrote, school boards across the state have battled over whether certain textbooks are appropriate for instruction. Teachers, she noted, say they don’t know if it’s safe to bring in photos of their same-sex spouses, while others were concerned that their attire could lead to discussions now prohibited under the law. The Post quoted several educators who suggested the law was vague and confusing, while also arguing the new rules are only making a state teacher shortage that much worse.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses a joint legislative session, Jan. 11, 2022, in Tallahassee.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses a joint legislative session, Jan. 11, 2022, in Tallahassee. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

"The vagueness of these laws is doing exactly what it was intended to do. It’s silencing teachers," Michael Woods, a special education teacher in Palm Beach County, told the Post. "I have grown people coming up to me worried about what they can say."

Nicole Neily, president of Parents Defending Education, joined some frustrated readers to suggest there's "no need for confusion."

"There’s no need for confusion," she tweeted. "Just stop teaching sexual orientation and gender identity to kids in kindergarten through third grade — that shouldn’t be a difficult task."

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"It's pretty sad when 'Don't talk to little kids about your sex life and assorted sexual fetishes--teach reading and math instead' fills the @Washingtonpost with angst," another Twitter user wrote.

Others wondered what controversial material kids were learning in classrooms before, if teachers now had to suddenly "remake" their lesson plans. 

DeSantis' team also took issue with the report, with deputy press secretary Bryan Griffin arguing that "most of the reporting on these laws has been so slanted and inaccurate," and spokesperson Christina Pushaw suggesting Florida schools should simply focus on teaching the "basic subjects."

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A few of DeSantis' most high profile critics have included the Biden administration, which warned it would be "monitoring" the parental rights law, and the Walt Disney Corporation. DeSantis stripped Disney's special governing status after CEO Bob Chapek publicly rebuked the bill. 

"Florida’s HB 1557, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, should never have passed and should never have been signed into law," Disney had said. "Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that. We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country."