Florida Protects K-12 Children from Gender Ideology, ‘Woke Mind Virus’
The state of Florida has closed the schoolhouse door to extreme gender ideology, preventing K-12 teachers from indoctrinating students in LGBTQ theories regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. Teachers who break the law could be prevented from teaching in the state.
The Parental Rights in Education Act, signed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) last year, protected children from being subjected to controversial theories about gender fluidity, transgender identity, or sexual preference in grades K-3, roughly from ages five to nine years of age. The law, which left-wing critics mislabel as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, established that a “school district may not encourage classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity.” On Wednesday, the Florida Board of Education voted to extend its terms to all the state’s K-12 students.
“Gender ideology has no place in our K-12 school system,” DeSantis told a rally touting “The Florida Blueprint” in North Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday. Transgender theory, together with intersectionality and critical race theory/DEI, constitutes a “woke mind virus” that develops into “a form of cultural Marxism.”
“It is wrong for a teacher to tell a student that they may have been born in the wrong body or that their gender is a choice. And so we don’t let that happen in Florida,” DeSantis continued. “We’re going to do normal school like everyone did for the whole history of our country — until like two hours ago.”
Teachers who insist on injecting sexual orientation or gender identity into school conversations could lose their Florida teaching credentials, under the new guidelines. The department permits teachers to insert SOGI theories into the classroom only when required by law or in sexual education courses. State law allows parents to opt out their children from sex ed classes.
“If Disney objects to that, so be it: We’re going to do what’s right,” the governor added, referring to a year-long feud with the children’s entertainment company, which opposed the parental rights bill last year.
The decision won praise from social conservatives far outside his own state. Mat Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel, called the DOE’s childhood protections “another step toward protecting children” from extreme gender ideology. “The classroom is not an appropriate place for discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity. Radical activists have no business trying to confuse and indoctrinate our children regarding their biological gender.”
DeSantis, who is frequently touted as a likely 2024 presidential hopeful, drew an attack from his likely opponent, former President Donald Trump. “DeSanctus [sic] is being absolutely destroyed by Disney,” the 45th president posted Tuesday on Truth Social. “This is all so unnecessary, a political STUNT.”
Several former Trump officials piled on, castigating the governor as insufficiently pro-business or dubiously conservative. “A governor should not come crashing down on, if not biggest, one of the biggest businesses,” declared Fox Business host and former Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is also considering throwing his hat in the ring again, also pounced. “I don’t think Ron DeSantis is a conservative based on his actions towards Disney,” he said, adding true conservatives should “stay out of the business of business.”
Hillary Clinton, too, proclaimed that she stood with Disney against DeSantis.
But social conservatives thanked DeSantis for standing up against Disney officials. “They have awakened a sleeping giant. … They’ve kicked sand in our face for too long,” Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, told “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” on Wednesday. “Now as we see pushback against big government tyranny, there is a real resistance and pushback against big business tyranny,” as well.
Blackwell said a juggernaut of political and business leaders seek “to force cultural change on the populace” by circumventing parental rights.
The educational guidelines came on the same day as Florida legislators passed a package of child protection measures.
The state House of Representatives passed S.B. 1438, which bars children from attending any “adult live performance,” such as Drag Queen events. Any violation “constitutes an immediate, serious danger to the public health, safety, or welfare,” which could cost violators their license. The bill goes to Governor DeSantis for his signature.
The chamber also forwarded S.B. 254, which extends the state’s protection over any child who “has been subjected to or is threatened with being subjected to sex reassignment prescriptions or procedures.” The LGBTQ lobby asserted the bill would encourage parents opposed to such procedures to kidnap children about to be subjected to such treatments, dubbing the legislation an “abduction bill.” Yet the lobbies supported bills in California and Washington State that allow the officials to take custody of out-of-state children who flee there after their parents disapprove of transgender procedures.
The Florida Department of Health’s existing medical guidance already states that cross-sex hormone injections and surgical procedures “run an unacceptably high risk of doing harm” to children, and that studies favoring transgender treatments for minors reflect “a trend of low-quality evidence, small sample sizes, and medium to high risk of bias.” (Emphasis in original.)
Finally, S.B. 1521 denies men access to battered women’s shelters, restrooms, and prisons.
The governor couched his support for these bills in biblical language. “It’s a war on truth, and it’s really important that our society be rooted in truth. So, if you tell me that somebody who’s on the men’s swim team for three years can just switch and do the women's team and somehow win the national championship, that’s a fraud.”
“The truth will set you free,” DeSantis testified to Newsmax reporter Benny Arthur Johnson (no relation), quoting Jesus Christ.
President Joe Biden denounced the Parental Rights in Education Act as “hateful” and deemed proposals denying the transgender industry access to underage children’s bodies “close to sinful.”
South Carolina voters seemed more receptive to the views DeSantis expressed during his first visit to the early primary state, which ended at First Baptist North Spartanburg. A Winthrop poll of South Carolina Republican primary voters shows DeSantis slightly ahead of the state’s former governor, Nikki Haley.
Blackwell vowed not to back down in the face of corporate pressure. “Our freedom is not a grant from government. It’s a gift from God, and we’re going to defend it,” Blackwell said.
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.