Florida families are facing new restrictions in nearly every arena of parenting. Here’s what’s at stake.

Florida has made headlines over the past year a raft of state laws and policies that especially impact parents of children and teens.

From conception through a child’s college years, Florida parents face new restrictions in nearly every arena of parenting. Schools have become cultural battlegrounds, as parents and educators are left to figure out which books, classroom materials and lessons are allowed under new legislation that targets students’ exposure to politically divisive issues like critical race theory or gender identity.

In Florida, new laws that may be welcome to conservative parents have left others wondering whether to fight school policies that don’t align with their values – or leave. Parents of trans and gender-queer children no longer have access to gender affirming care, while LGBTQ+ families must contend with elementary schools where teachers aren’t allowed to address questions on gender and sexual orientation.

Just as California is often a test market for progressive policies, Florida has emerged as the “center of gravity” for GOP policymaking, former National Governors Association spokesman James Nash told The Washington Post. Many of the conservative efforts to make the GOP the “parents’ party” have launched in Florida under Gov. Ron DeSantis – one of the party’s most influential leaders – before rolling out in other conservative states.

Here are a few recent Florida laws, rules and proposed bills that impact the way Florida parents birth, raise and educate their children:

  • “Don’t Say Gay”: The Parental Rights in Education Act (called “Don’t Say Gay” law by critics) that prohibits teachers from addressing gender or sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade, and restricts that information in upper grades. A new bill introduced this year would expand limitations through eight grade and require teachers to use pronouns that match a student’s sex as assigned at birth.
  • The CRT ban: The Stop WOKE Act (Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act) prohibits teaching critical race theory in schools. Critical race theory is often mischaracterized or mistaken for education on racism or civil rights, but is at its heart an academic framework used to examine systemic racism.
  • Book censorship: State law requires educational materials in school classrooms and libraries be age-appropriate and without “pornography.” The law is vague enough that schools across the state have removed books and other materials that teachers worry could run afoul of the law.
  • Abortion ban: Florida law prohibits abortion beyond 15 weeks’ gestation without exceptions for rape or incest, but a proposed bill could narrow that window to six weeks.
  • Ban on gender-affirming care: Florida’s medical boards, with the encouragement of Florida’s governor, passed new rules prohibiting gender-affirming care, including puberty blockers and surgical procedures, for transgender patients under age 18. A proposed Florida bill would let a parent petition courts for emergency custody of their child if the child is “at risk” of receiving gender-affirming care, or if their custodial parent receives that care.
  • Eliminate AP classes: Gov. DeSantis cautioned he might withdraw state support for AP programs in high schools, including an African American students course he has said lacks “educational value.” It remains unclear how he might be able to do this, but it has worried Florida parents over their children’s ability to be competitive in college admissions.
  • Eliminate certain college majors: A proposed bill in Florida would prohibit public college from funding projects that “espouse diversity, equity and inclusion or Critical Race Theory rhetoric,” among other things, effectively banning diversity programs and college majors involving gender studies.

Florida may offer a forecast for what parents in other states can expect in the coming year.

From the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill to the Stop WOKE Act, GOP leaders in other states are scrambling to emulate Florida’s policies. Lawmakers from Alabama to Wyoming have introduced copycat legislation also aimed at school libraries, classrooms, LGBTQ+ children, and abortion rights.

Anna Claire Vollers

Anna Claire Vollers |

I report mainly on reproductive and maternal health, working parents and family policy at Reckon News.

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