Legal Settlement Defines Limits of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Law

( – A recent settlement in a case brought by LGBTQ advocates and education officials in Florida against the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill just clarified the scope of a specific statute in the law that would permit teachers and students to discuss the topics of gender identity and sexual orientation as long as those discussions are not part of a formal lesson.

The lawsuit was filed just a few days after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the controversial legislation in March 2022. It was brought forth by over a dozen plaintiffs, including teachers, parents, students, and civil rights organizations. The case argued that the language in the law is too “vague” and created confusion amongst teachers about what, exactly, was permitted to be addressed in their classrooms and in what contexts.

The law is formally named the “Parental Rights in Education Act” (HB 1557). It prohibits teachers from administering instruction in classrooms about sexual orientation and the concept of “gender identity” for students in kindergarten to third grade. For students in higher grades, it restricts the discussion of such topics to a level that is “age-appropriate,” although the state’s education board later expanded the law to restrict discussions of the subjects to all grade levels. Teachers found to violate the new policy could be suspended or even have their licenses revoked.

On Monday, March 11th, a settlement was reached clarifying that the legislation does not include restrictions on discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity when such discussions are raised by students during their class participation or in their schoolwork. The law only restricts teaching about the topics in classroom instruction. The settlement also firmly clarified that school materials, such as library books referencing LGBTQ subjects, would not be banned.

The Florida Board of Education must now notify all school districts about the settlement agreement and the clarifications, specifically that teachers are allowed to answer questions about their own families or relationships, respond to their students to provide feedback on their work if it includes LGBTQ subjects and to respond to students who share details in class about having same-sex parents. It also will not prohibit school counselors and staff from interviewing students who may be experiencing bullying related to such matters.

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