July 22, 2022

Gov. Ron DeSantis and his conservative minions clearly have it out for education in Florida. At the center of it all is the state’s HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education law, or as it’s become best known, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

According to reporting from the Miami Herald, the Miami-Dade School Board voted 5-4 in favor of killing a new sex education book to be used in the 2022-2023 school year.

The book, entitled Comprehensive Health Skills, would have been used to teach human reproduction and disease education in grades 6 through 12, but a small group of parents and community members claimed that sections of the textbook were not “not scientifically factual,” specifically that vaccines were the only method of battling viral disease.

While most of the parents and community members who spoke before the vote were in favor of keeping the textbook, according to Politico, Miami-Dade school board member Mari Tere Rojas claimed the books were “not age-appropriate,” and “some of the chapters are extremely troublesome.”

One of the loudest voices of support for banning the book was that of Alex Serrano, county director for County Citizens Defending Freedom, Miami Herald reports.

Serrano’s children attend a private school in Miami, where students and teachers who receive the COVID-19 vaccine are told to stay home for a 30-day period following the jab lest they infect their fellow students or colleagues with “viral shedding.”

“We are not against sexual education or human reproduction and sexual education books,” Serrano said Wednesday before the school board met for the vote. “We are for statutory compliance and age appropriateness in the content ... and compliance with parental rights law.” He added that classroom discussions on gender “do not belong” in the books. “That is ideology,” he said.

NBC Miami reports that Marika Lynch, a parent who spoke out in favor of the textbooks, said, “Half of all high school kids have sex before they graduate from high school, that’s not something we’re gonna change. … So we want them to have the best information. Yes. Do I want my kids, who are all preteens, to have the best information? Absolutely, that’s what we’re here for today."

President of PRISM Florida Maxx Fenning told those assembled that “young people ages 15-24 make up 25% of all new HIV infections in the U.S.,” and that sex ed gives students the “tools they need to protect themselves if and when they decide to be sexually active.”

As we reported at Daily Kos, DeSantis has been hellbent on controlling the school board.

School board candidates have traditionally remained nonpartisan, but not in Florida. DeSantis has endorsed about 10 school board candidates there. 

Although Florida has a stunning teacher shortage—one that Florida Trend writes is “worsening,” with “estimates fearing that vacancies could double by the end of 2022”—DeSantis continues to pressure teachers to push his conservative curriculum, forcing some to leave the profession altogether. 

Janielle Murphy, a P.S. 305 board member, told the Miami Herald that the recent vote on the sex ed books just “gave the governor more ammunition in the defunding of public schools. … It was clearly stated on the record that MDCPS [Miami-Dade County Public Schools] is not following state law, and they still voted no. Instead of the small percentage of parents being able to opt-out of the curriculum, as allowed (by the state), they have opted the entire district out.”

Republished with permission from Daily Kos.

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