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Florida moves froward with outlining procedures for controversial education law

A protest against what critics have dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill earlier this year in St. Petersburg.
Martha Asencio-Rhine
Tampa Bay Times via AP
A protest in St. Petersburg earlier this year against what critics have dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" law.

The Florida Department of Education on Monday published a proposed rule designed to carry out part of the controversial new “Parental Rights in Education law” (HB 1557), which critics disparagingly dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

The law, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in March, said instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity “may not occur” in kindergarten through third grade. In older grades, the law prohibits such instruction that is not “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” for students in accordance with state standards.

Parents are allowed under the law to sue school districts for violations. But the measure also provides an alternative process for resolving disputes that would use special magistrates.

The proposed rule published Monday would spell out procedures involving special magistrates. For instance, parents would have to prove that they sought resolution of disputes with school principals before initiating hearings before special magistrates. Parents would have to fill out forms and provide details such as the nature of the disputes.

The proposed rule also would lay out the responsibilities of school districts and the state education commissioner. Under the proposal, Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr., would be responsible for reviewing every pending request from parents.

The rule also includes legal procedures for hearings before magistrates. “The parties or the magistrate may call, examine, and cross-examine witnesses and enter evidence into the record. Witnesses shall be examined under oath,” the proposed rule said, in part.

The State Board of Education will hold a hearing on the proposed rule Aug. 17 during a meeting at Pensacola State College.

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