Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general in opposing Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law that prohibits teachers from discussing issues of gender and sexuality with children in kindergarten through 3rd grade.

Parental Rights in Education law, also known as House Bill (HB) 1557, requires district school boards to adopt procedures that comply with certain provisions of law for notifying a student’s parent of specified information. The rule, which was signed into law in March of 2022, requires that the procedures reinforce parents’ “fundamental right” to make decisions about the upbringing and control of their children. Additionally, the law blocks school districts from adopting procedures that prohibit school district personnel from notifying a student’s parent about specified infractions.

“One of the most important issues surrounding the education of our kids is making them feel seen, protected, and appreciated,” Nessel’s office told The Epoch Times in regard to Michigan’s involvement in the coalition. “That was not the motivation of this law. The intent and effect of this law is to exacerbate any feelings of otherness that LGBTQ+ students and LGBTQ+ teachers may hold, as well as isolate them from their peers. If the goal of this law had been to limit inappropriate content in classrooms, its language is much too broad and vague to do so in any meaningful way. I proudly stand with my colleagues in opposing this exclusionary law and I will do everything in my power to ensure that similar legislation does not come to Michigan.”

The States’ Problems With the Law

The attorneys general asserted that the law, which prohibits classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity, poses a serious threat to LGBT students, who are especially vulnerable to the harms caused by discrimination. Progressive groups nationwide as well as a Florida teachers union rallied behind the effort to stop the implementation of the law, as The Epoch Times previously reported.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nev., on Nov. 19, 2022. (Wade Vandervort/AFP via Getty Images)

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has also backed the brief objecting to Florida’s law, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by its detractors, saying it is an “extreme outlier” and lacks a “legitimate pedagogical purpose.” Healey’s office previously announced the state’s support for the suit Equality Florida v. DeSantis, which was filed in August 2022, claiming that there was no other state educational statute as broad as Florida’s parental notification law. Healey’s office claims that because of the law’s alleged ambiguous prohibitions and the capacity of a parent to sue a school system in civil court, Florida instructors were already restricting themselves out of fear of repercussions.

“Florida’s hate-fueled law is the censorship of LGTBQ+ issues at a time when school communities should be creating an educational environment that is inclusive of everyone,” said Healey. “With my colleagues across the country, we are asking the court to put an end to this radical policy and protect LGBTQ+ young people and their families from further harm.”

Nessel is joining the amicus brief with attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington.

What the Law Accomplished

According to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office, HB 1557 outlines three critical steps to protect pupils and restore parental power in several ways, including restricting sexual orientation or gender identity training in K-3 classrooms; and after 3rd grade, any discussions must be age-appropriate. The bill also requires that parents be advised about healthcare services offered at the school at the start of each school year, with the option to decline any service offered. Additionally, the measure mandates that if a questionnaire or health screening is administered to K-3 pupils, parents are notified first and grant consent for the school to administer the questionnaire or health screening to their child.

“Parents’ rights have been increasingly under assault around the nation, but in Florida we stand up for the rights of parents and the fundamental role they play in the education of their children,” said DeSantis. “Parents have every right to be informed about services offered to their child at school, and should be protected from schools using classroom instruction to sexualize their kids as young as 5 years old.”

The law was backed by a number of Florida parents and officials, including Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez, who said that the law would safeguard children and stop school boards from hiding information about students from their parents. Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran also offered his support saying, “Parents play the #1 role in a child’s life and I am thankful for the Governor, Legislature and so many parents who continue to stand up for parents’ rights to be the foremost authority involving their children.”

DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill into law at a press conference saying, “In Florida, we not only know that parents have a right to be involved, we insist that parents have a right to be involved.”

Savannah Pointer

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