Listening to my news podcast over the past few weeks, I’ve heard enough updates about Florida to wonder: Are we living in a dystopia?
Here’s what’s been going on lately.
Teachers have been told to hide their books to avoid felony charges.
Not wanting to deal with a felony charge and an accompanying five-year prison sentence, many teachers are taking their classroom books home. At least two districts in Florida have told their teachers to either remove or cover up their classroom libraries altogether.
Why we’re worried: While House Bill 1467 itself does not issue felony charges to teachers for having banned books in their libraries, it is a felony to distribute “harmful” materials to minors. Who decides what’s “harmful”? Who’s to stop an unhinged parent from saying the naked Holocaust mice prisoners in Pulitzer Prize–winning Maus II aren’t pornographic in nature?
And beyond the obvious sadness of kids not having books available to them at school, this kind of censorship also begs the question, what material will be allowed in schools and curriculum? Whose stories will be deemed worthy of telling, and whose will be silenced? We already know the answer.
High school athletes might have to disclose their menstrual histories.
High school athletes have always had to get physicals to prove their bodies are in good enough health to play their sport. But now, the Florida High School Athletic Association is considering making menstrual history—part of the physical that has always been optional—mandatory.
Why we’re worried: We’re not worried about this measure actually preventing trans athletes from participating (how hard is it to say you had 12 periods in the last year?). But two things concern us: 1) To what extent will we allow transphobic legislation to violate the privacy of all athletes in schools? Are intrusive physical exams next? 2) The menstrual history information is stored digitally using third-party software, which could easily be subpoenaed to incriminate women in post-Roe Florida.
A proposal from Gov. DeSantis aims to block diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in state colleges.
Governor Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday his plan to ban DEI programs in Florida colleges. His office said the proposal “raises the standards of learning and civil discourse of public higher education in Florida” by blocking DEI and other “discriminatory initiatives” while mandating Western civilization courses.
Why we’re worried: DEI programs exist to shed light on existing racism built into the very framework of higher education. They create a fairer, more just environment for students, academics, and professors. Getting rid of them sends a very dangerous message to marginalized people: We see no need to protect you.
DeSantis also almost banned the AP course on African American studies.
On January 27, Florida’s department of ed rejected the African American Studies AP course on the claim that it indoctrinates students with leftist political agenda. The College Board came back with a revised AP course—one it insists was complete before Florida’s rejection—that omits units on intersectionality and activism, Black feminist literary thought, and Black queer studies.
Why we’re worried: Whether it was in response to Florida’s announcement or not, the College Board’s decision that Black history ought to be taught more narrowly makes us worried for every student in Florida. Janai Nelson, NAACP Legal Defense Fund director-counsel, says it perfectly: “The losses to our nation, if this broad attack on our shared history is allowed to continue, are incalculable,” Nelson wrote. “Not only will it breed a generation of Americans indoctrinated by ignorance; it will deny them the analytical skills to understand the complex history of this experimental democracy, as well as the historical grounding to sustain it.”
This is on top of last year’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Last summer, Governor DeSantis signed the “Parental Rights in Education” law, which opponents nicknamed “Don’t Say Gay.” The law reads, “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
Why we’re worried: Because the law doesn’t ban the “instruction” of heteronormative or cisgender relationships in K-3, the message of this law is clear: Gay is bad. For LGBTQ youth, restricting the way they can talk about themselves can be fatal, as they already have a higher risk of self-harm than their peers.
Additionally, the intentionally vague wording in this law is no mistake. With many ways to interpret words like “appropriate” and with no framework for what “instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation” actually looks like (for example, is explanation considered instruction?), this law makes it incredibly easy for school boards to punish teachers who affirm the humanity of LGBTQ people by:
- Talking about the existence of queer people
- Mentioning their same-sex spouse or partner or having a picture of them on their desk
- Allowing a student to talk about an LGBTQ family member
- Using requested pronouns of an LGBTQ student
And letting veterans teach without bachelor degrees.
To help alleviate Florida’s teacher shortage, DeSantis signed a bill last year allowing veterans a 5-year temporary certification as they work toward a bachelor degree.
Why we’re worried: Teaching is hard enough for people who’ve been through the top university education programs. If you’ve found yourself in a teacher shortage, the solution is to listen to why teachers are leaving and fix those issues, not make it easier for less qualified people to teach.
Can’t imagine why you’d need veterans to fill teaching positions when you’ve created such a robust and thriving educational mecca, Ron!
You want to know a nice story about people rallying around teachers in Florida, though? A school board member asked parents in a Facebook community to rat on teachers for her, and the parents absolutely destroyed her:
Now we just need those parents to get to the polls for us.
What do you think about the state of education in Florida? Let us know in the comments.
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