Sunday, March 3

‘There’s hope:’ Proposed education bill aims to undo controversial Florida laws of previous years

LGBTQ+ advocates are hopeful for change in Florida with a pair of bills filed for this legislative session.

The Democrat-backed “Freedom To Learn Act” would essentially undo the controversial laws of the previous years, like the “Parental Rights In Education” measure.

We’ve seen a lot of classroom changes and culture wars over the past few years coming from Tallahassee. Now, some lawmakers are trying to essentially go back in time, as supporters say, to take a step forward.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Education

“I think it’s so critical that young people, students, are able to feel seen and heard in their classrooms,” said Maxx Fenning, the executive director of PRISM, a LGBTQ+ organization for young people in South Florida.

Fenning is encouraged by the “Freedom To Learn Act.” It would require instruction on LGBTQ+ history in Florida and essentially repeal the “Parental Rights In Education” law, which made national headlines for regulating how sexual orientation and gender identity are discussed in schools.

“Young people are very fearful of what’s been happening in Tallahassee and in their state government. So bills like this that push us in the right direction are so powerful,” Fenning said.

“There is no way this bill is going to pass,” said Jennifer Pippin, the Indian River County chair of Moms For Liberty. “I don’t even think it’s going to make it through the House, to be honest with you.”

Pippin said this bill would undo the work of her organization over past few years.

It also takes aim at book bans, requiring book challenges only be filed by parents, not simply county residents, which played out in St. Lucie County last year.

“It’s striking out the taxpayers and the residents of communities. And just having parents is not the right thing to do by any county in the state of Florida,” Pippin said.

While it may be a long shot for a Republican-controlled legislature to make these changes, Fenning said just the filing is a step forward.

“While it does face an uphill battle, there’s hope. And I think that it still says something that there are people in our state legislature who are doing the work to show what Florida can and should look like in the future,” Fenning said.

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