When the Florida Legislature opened its 2023 session Tuesday, Republican lawmakers had previously introduced a trio of bills that would expand a recently enacted education law that restricts instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Nearly a year ago, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Parents’ Rights in Education Bill, or what critics have dubbed the «Don’t Say Gay» law. The measure prohibits “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties about sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade “or in a manner that is not age or developmentally appropriate to students of accordance with state standards.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signs the Parental Rights in Education bill during a press conference in Spring Hill, Florida in 2022.Douglas R. Clifford / Tampa Bay Times via AP File

State Rep. Adam Anderson introduced a measure last week that would expand the law by banning classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten through eighth grade. And if such instruction is provided in grades nine through twelve, «it must be age or developmentally appropriate to the students in accordance with state standards.»

The invoice, HB 1223it would extend to charter schools and private pre-K programs, which are excluded from current education law.

Anderson’s bill, which had two additional co-sponsors as of Wednesday morning, would also enact a statewide definition of «sex» as «the binary division of individuals based on reproductive function» and «an immutable biological trait.» Consequently, the bill says, «it is false to attribute to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to their sex.» The measure would prohibit schools from requiring staff, contractors and students to use a pronoun or title for someone if it does not correspond to the person’s assigned sex at birth. It would also prohibit school staff from sharing their pronouns or titles if they don’t align with their birth sex.

Anderson did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

Michael Woods is a special education teacher in Palm Beach County, Florida.
Michael Woods is a special education teacher in Palm Beach County, Florida.Courtesy of Michael Woods

Michael Woods, a special education teacher at a Palm Beach County high school, said lawmakers aren’t addressing the real needs of the state’s schools. His school, for example, is short seven special education teachers, he said. Statewide, there are more than 5,000 teacher openings, the Orlando Sentinel reported in January.

“I don’t understand why banning pronouns is more important than hiring teachers, getting affordable insurance, and making sure people can buy houses,” Woods said. «Instead of addressing questions like why are we short of so many teachers, why are we short of seven teachers, they’ve chosen to double down this year on ‘Don’t Say Gay’ and really crazy requirements.»

State Rep. Stan McClain and State Sen. Clay Yarborough, both Republicans, introduced bills similar to Anderson’s that would also regulate reproductive health education and require school districts to create a process that allows parents to object to books in public schools. teachers’ classroom libraries.

Florida schools currently provide health education at all grade levels, addressing more than a dozen components, including environmental health, nutrition, and substance use. Students in grades six through twelve also receive instruction on «the benefits of sexual abstinence as the expected standard and the consequences of teen pregnancy.» Schools are not required to provide sex education, but when they do provide HIV/AIDS education, must have approved resumes by your school board.

McClain’s bill, HB 1069, would restrict reproductive health instruction from sixth to twelfth grade. Among its provisions, the bill would require schools to teach “that sex is determined by biology and reproductive function at birth; that biological males impregnate biological females by fertilizing the female egg with male sperm; that the female then gestates the offspring; and that these reproductive roles are binary, stable and immutable”.

McClain did not respond to requests for comment.

the Yarborough Bill, SB 1320Titled “Child Protection in Public Schools,” it is similar to McClain’s, but would restrict reproductive health instruction to grades 9 through 12. The bill has an additional co-sponsor.

In an emailed statement, Yarborough said he believes parents have the right and «God-given responsibility» to direct their children’s upbringing.

“The decision about when and if certain topics should be introduced to young children rests with parents, who should not have to worry that students will receive classroom instruction on topics and materials that parents feel are not appropriate for their age,» Yarborough said in the statement. . «The bill also protects students and teachers from being forced to use language that would violate their personal convictions.»

He added: “Every family is different, and children mature at different rates. The place of instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity is at home, guided by the parents, if they deem it appropriate.

Woods said he’s not surprised that lawmakers are trying to expand the parental rights in education law. In fact, when he spoke to NBC News in August about how his school was implementing the law, he predicted it would expand to more grade levels in the future.

Woods, who is gay, said he wants to reinstate his school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance, or GSA, which is a club for LGBTQ students and their allies, but isn’t sure how the law would affect him.

“There is a lack of feedback from the state; I can’t expose myself,” he said, referring to what he described as the vagueness of the law. «I am angry with myself, because I feel that I have let the children down.»

However, he added, «it is a law, regardless of how I feel as a human being, a law is still a law.»

So far this year, Florida lawmakers have introduced at least 11 bills targeting LGBTQ people, while lawmakers across the country have introduced more than 380 such bills, according to American Civil Liberties Union and a separate group of researchers they are following the flow of legislation.