Education secretary says feds will monitor new Florida law

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Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks to students outside PS 5 Port Morris, an elementary school in the Bronx in New York on Tuesday, August 17, 2021.

PA

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Monday his department will monitor Florida’s implementation of a controversial new education law that restricts classroom teaching about sexual orientation and identity. to determine if it violates federal civil rights law.

Cardona’s statement hints at the potential legal ramifications of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision on Monday to sign the legislation, which critics have called a “don’t say gay” bill. But it does not specify what steps the Biden administration might take in response.

“In signing this bill, Governor DeSantis has chosen to target some of Florida’s most vulnerable students and families, all under the guise of ‘parental rights.’ Make no mistake: this is part of a disturbing and dangerous trend across the country of legislation targeting students, educators and LGBTQI+ individuals,” Cardona said in a statement Monday after DeSantis signed the bill into law. .

“This comes at a time when we know that lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning students are three to four times more likely than non-LGBTQI+ students to report experiencing lingering feelings of sadness, hopelessness and even self-harm – not because of who they are only because of the hostility directed against them.

Legislation DeSantis signed prohibits classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade or “in a manner that is not appropriate for the age or development of students in accordance with state standards,” a phrase that could limit education for older people. students too.

Cardona’s statement comes after President Joe Biden criticized the Florida legislation last month for targeting LGBTQ statements. It also follows a series of increasingly bitter political disputes between Biden and DeSantis over a range of issues, including school districts’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden administration officials have repeatedly linked the Florida legislation to a broader trend by state officials to pursue policies they say will marginalize LGBTQ youth, including Texas’ launch of surveys of parents whose transgender children undergo gender affirming treatments.

But DeSantis and other supporters of the Florida law have touted it as a way to protect parents’ rights.

“Parents have every right to be informed of services available to their child at school and should be protected from schools that use classroom instruction to sexualize their children as young as 5 years old,” DeSantis said. in a statement Monday.

Cardona said the Department of Education “will monitor this law as it is implemented to assess whether it violates federal civil rights law,” and noted that “any student who believes they are being discriminated against, including harassment, at school or any parent who is concerned about their child being discriminated against can file a complaint with our Office of Civil Rights.

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights is the same entity Biden appointed last year to investigate whether Florida and other states have violated the civil rights of immunocompromised students through policies preventing districts schools to adopt mask mandates and other COVID-19 mitigation strategies.

Cardona, a former elementary school teacher and principal, served as Connecticut’s education commissioner before his appointment as head of the US Department of Education last year.

During her confirmation hearing, several Republican senators focused their questions on gender identity, specifically the participation of transgender students in women’s sports programs.

He repeatedly said during these exchanges that his responsibility would be to protect the civil rights of all students, including transgender students.

This story was originally published March 28, 2022 2:31 p.m.

Bryan Lowry covers the White House and Congress for the Miami Herald. Previously, he was a Washington correspondent and senior political reporter for the Kansas City Star. Lowry contributed to The Star’s 2017 project on Kansas government secrecy which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

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