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Miami School Board Rejects Sex Ed Textbooks Over Don’t Say Gay Law

Miami Dade School Board meeting

The Miami school board reversed an earlier decision in April to approve the textbooks.

Miami schools rejected a sex education textbook on Wednesday because of Florida's new "don't say gay" law, after initially approving it several months ago.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the controversial legislation into law earlier this year, and it went into effect earlier this month.

The Miami-Dade School Board voted to reverse its approval of Comprehensive Health Skills textbooks, which are used for middle and high school health classes. The reversal was because the textbooks include sections on sexuality and gender identification. The board had voted to approve the textbooks in April.

The 5-3 vote came after a small group of right-wing activists alleged the educational materials violated a new parental rights law that required any discussion of sexual orientation for students in all levels of school to be age appropriate.

"We are not against sexual education or human reproduction and sexual education books," Alex Serrano, of the conservative group County Citizens Defending Freedom, told the Miami Herald. "We are for statutory compliance and age appropriateness in the content ... and compliance with parental rights law."

The "don't say gay" law cited by Serrano completely prohibits discussion of LGBTQ+ issues with students from kindergarten through third grade. But the textbooks in question were not part of an elementary school curriculum.

The right-wing Moms For Liberty group, though, told the Miami New Times the books contained objectionable material and suggested even discussion of contraception violated the new law's restriction on discussing sexuality with students.

"The issue that we're having with the textbooks is the content is not age-appropriate," said Eulalia Jimenez-Hincapie, chapter chair of Moms for Liberty Miami. "There's content that discusses abortion, that discusses Plan B. This type of content is not age-appropriate for 11-year-olds or 12-year-olds."

However, the Herald reports that a majority of the public who spoke at Wednesday's meeting wanted the board to adopt the textbooks. Out of the more than 40 people who spoke, only four voiced opposition to adopting them.

Maxx Fenning, president of PRISM Florida, a local LGBTQ+ nonprofit providing LGBTQ-inclusive education and sexual health resources for young people, said that a comprehensive sex ed curriculum gives students the "tools they need to protect themselves if and when they decide to be sexually active."

Critics told the paper that by banning textbooks, the district may run afoul of other state requirements. State curriculums do require sex ed instruction -- with parents who object able to opt their own students out -- but now many schools have no textbooks available for teaching on those topics.

"The board members that voted no just gave the governor more ammunition in the defunding of public schools," parent Janielle Murphy told the Herald. "It was clearly stated on the record MDCPS is not following state law and they still voted no. Instead of the small percentage of parents being able to opt-out of the curriculum, as allowed (by the state), they have opted the entire district out."

Nonprofit group Florida Freedom to Read also criticized the decision.

"In a narrowly divided vote, the Miami-Dade School Board Wednesday reversed its decision to adopt a new sex education textbook for the 2022-23 school year -- a move that leaves the district with no sexual education curriculum for at least four to eight months," the group said in a statement.

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