Respect Equality

Florida school board rejects new sex education textbooks

Miami-Dade school board members walked back an earlier decision to approve the textbooks following several petitions from parents that accused the books of violating a new state education law.

Story at a glance

  • The Miami-Dade school board this week in a 5-4 vote rejected two previously approved sex education textbooks following criticism from parents.

  • Parents opposing the adoption of the textbooks said they violated the state’s new Parental Rights in Education law, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law to its critics.

  • The state earlier this year rejected more than 40 percent of math textbooks submitted for review by the Department of Education, citing “prohibited topics.”

The Miami-Dade school board this week voted to reject two previously approved textbooks on reproduction and sexually transmitted diseases following outcry from parents who argued the materials violated a new state education law.

In a 5-4 vote, school board members at a Wednesday evening meeting reversed a decision made in April to approve the textbooks, which would have been used to establish the coming year’s sex education curriculum at a middle school and high school in the nation’s fourth-largest public school system. The board didn’t say which learning materials would replace the textbooks.

The decision to approve the textbooks in April was met with several petitions opposing the move from parents, who said the books were not in compliance with the state’s Parental Rights in Education law, known to its critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Under the law, which was signed by the state’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in March and went into effect July 1, public school teachers are limited in their ability to address topics including sexual orientation and gender identity with their students.

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Board members in April had asked the publisher of the book “Comprehensive Health Skills” to remove a chapter covering gender and sexuality, among other topics, the Associated Press reported.

Miami-Dade school board member Mari Tere Rojas, who voted against adopting the textbooks, told KCNC-TV, a CBS affiliate in Miami, following Wednesday’s meeting that several chapters of the books do not align with state education standards and are not “age appropriate” for middle or high school students.

She added that she does not personally agree with the way contraception is addressed in the textbooks and said abortion should never be taught in class, regardless of the students’ age or grade level.

But Rojas, despite the meeting’s outcome, does not represent the majority. Of the 42 members of the public that spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, 38 said the board should keep with its earlier decision to adopt the textbooks, KCNC-TV reported.

Marika Lynch, a mother of three, on Wednesday spoke in favor of adopting the textbooks, arguing that “the stakes are really too high,” the New York Times reported.

“We want kids to be prepared when the time comes,” Lynch said. “Would you rather have this information given to them by their teachers, who are trained to do this in an age-appropriate way? Or would you rather have them get the information on their phone?”

Free speech advocates said the school board’s rejection of the textbooks was “politically motivated.”

“It comes amid a torrent of stories of suppression of books and information in Florida schools,” Jonathan Friedman, director of the Free Expression and Education program at the nonprofit PEN America, said Thursday in a statement.

In April, Florida’s Department of Education announced it had rejected 54 math textbooks out of a total of 132 submitted, citing “prohibited topics” like critical race theory, which was banned by the department last year.

In a statement following the department’s announcement, DeSantis accused publishers of attempting to “indoctrinate” children. The governor has been vocal in his opposition to classroom instruction related to critical race theory – which he has called “state-sanctioned racism” – and sexual orientation and gender identity.

“It seems that some publishers attempted to slap a coat of paint on an old house built on the foundation of Common Core, and indoctrinating concepts like race essentialism, especially, bizarrely, for elementary school students,” DeSantis said at the time.

“I’m grateful that [Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran] and his team at the Department have conducted such a thorough vetting of these textbooks to ensure they comply with the law.”

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