Ron DeSantis Moves to Apply Florida's Restrictive 'Don't Say Gay' Law in High School Classrooms

The controversial law currently restricts lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in grades 3 and below. Now DeSantis' administration has plans to expand the law to grades 4 through 12

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to supporters at a campaign rally at the Cheyenne Saloon on November 7, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. DeSantis faces U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) in his re-election bid in tomorrow's general election. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via AP)
Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via AP

Ron DeSantis is doubling down on his administration's regulation of Florida schools with a new proposal to expand the divisive "Don't Say Gay" law to cover grades 4 through 12 as well.

In 2022, Florida lawmakers passed a bill to block the classroom discussion of certain LGBTQ topics in the third grade or younger, or "in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."

The bill, formally titled "Parental Rights in Education," received widespread, national backlash even before it took effect in July, with critics saying it could have adverse effects on an already marginalized community.

The new proposal takes the bill a step further, forbidding classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades, K-12.

The proposal is almost guaranteed to pass, as it will be voted on not by lawmakers but by members of the state Board of Education, who were appointed to their roles by DeSantis himself.

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The original bill ignited a feud between DeSantis and Disney World when the company expressed opposition to the polarizing measure.

The bill "should never have passed and should never have been signed into law," the Walt Disney Company said in a statement March 28. "Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the Legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that."

The governor responded, attacking Disney as "woke" and saying in a fundraising email that the iconic company "lost any moral authority to tell you what to do."

DeSantis then asked legislators to consider terminating the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a special zone enacted in 1967 that gives the company special privileges, including tax exemptions and certain autonomies like providing its own fire, police and other services such as building and maintaining roads, The New York Times reports.

State lawmakers voted in favor of stripping the company of its control of the district, and DeSantis signed the measure into law in February.

DeSantis has made a name for himself in recent years largely by waging culture wars between conservatives and what he deems as "woke" — members of the LGBTQ community and Disney World among them.

The Florida governor handily won reelection in November, amid intense speculation that he might be eyeing higher office — specifically, a run for the U.S. presidency in 2024.

Though DeSantis remains tight-lipped about a possible run for higher office, a political source recently told PEOPLE that he "is popular with Florida Republican voters, which is a good indication of how he would do nationally. He is not afraid to speak out on unpopular issues, and even more important than that, he is not afraid of Donald Trump."

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