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Ron DeSantis Fights For Free Speech By Banning Teachers Mentioning Slavery And Gay People
First Amendment, how does it go?
Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill is working exactly as intended, which is to say that its wording is so vague and the punishment for violation so draconian that schools are banishing any mention of the existence of homosexuality and gender identity from schools. Because the best policing is the self-policing achieved by scaring the shit out of the citizenry. But don't dare call it censorship!
Florida House Bill 1557 , AKA the the Parental Rights in Education Act, goes into effect this Friday. In theory, teachers are only restricted from discussing LGBTQ+ issues with young children.
"Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards," the statute reads.
Astute observers will note that this leaves room for prosecutors, or for parents who have been newly empowered to sue, to file a claim if they believe that students of any age are taught lessons which are "not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate." Whatever that may mean.
The practical effect of the bill is that lawyers are telling teachers to massively curb their speech in an effort to avoid running afoul of this gobbledygook law. WFTV, an ABC affiliate in Orlando, reports that Orange County Public School principals were recently forced to attend a "Camp Legal" last week to help them bring their schools into compliance with the new law:
“According to representatives of the county’s teacher association, teachers and staff members will be disallowed from wearing rainbow articles of clothing, including lanyards distributed by the district last year. Elementary-level teachers reported being discouraged from putting pictures of their same-sex spouse on their desk or talking about them to students.
"Safe Space” stickers aimed at LGBTQ students may have to be removed from doors, teachers will have to report to parents if a student “comes out” to them and they must use pronouns assigned at birth, regardless of what the parents allow, the CTA reported.
Because Republicans are all about free speech, unless someone wants to mention their same-sex spouse or call a kid by their preferred pronouns, in which case it is LOCK HER UP!
And in case it wasn't totally clear that the statute's deliberately nebulous language was causing schools to overcorrect and censor teachers:
In a separate conversation, an OCPS official said the district needed to err on the side of caution until state officials provided more clarity. The strict interpretations, they said, were necessary to protect both students and teachers. The latter could have their teaching licenses revoked if they run afoul of the law, the official said.
But wait, because Gov. Ron DeSantis and his christofascist goon squad isn't done yet. The Miami Herald has an absolutely batshit story out today on the governor's Civics Literacy Excellence Initiative. And if the thought of a guy who pretends to slay the critical race theory dragon with a law called the "Stop Woke" Act futzing with your kids' civics curriculum doesn't send a chill up your spine, get a load of this:
The Florida Department of Education is leading the workshops, which were developed with the help of Hillsdale College and other groups. The Bill of Rights Institute, founded by Charles Koch in 1999, is one of those groups. The state aims to train about 2,500 teachers in 10 sessions across the state.
The three-day sessions are voluntary, but teachers get a $700 stipend as an incentive to attend. Under the governor’s civics initiative, teachers this fall will also be eligible for a $3,000 bonus if they complete a 60-hour online course on the new civics standards and earn a “Civics Seal of Excellence Endorsement.”
Teachers who attended the seminar described an almost comical attempt to characterize the separation of church and state as a modern invention, downplay the history of slavery in America, and to enshrine a Thomas-style "originalist" approach to constitutional law as canon.
A review of more than 200 pages of the state’s presentations shows the founding fathers’ intent and the “misconceptions” about their thinking were a main theme of the training. One slide underscored that the “Founders expected religion to be promoted because they believed it to be essential to civic virtue.” Without virtue, another slide noted, citizens become “licentious” and become subject to tyranny.
Another slide highlights three U.S. Supreme Court cases to show when the “Founders’ original intent began to change.” That included the 1962 landmark case that found school-sponsored prayer violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which [Nova High School social studies teacher Richard] Judd said trainers viewed as unjust. At one point, the trainers equated it to the 1892 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation under the “separate but equal” doctrine.
Educators report that the curriculum emphasizes that most of the increase in enslaved persons in the country was due not to continued kidnapping of people from Africa, but instead from breeding human beings in captivity on American soil — as if that makes it better .
This slide fails to mention that both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, and omits the sourcing. Perhaps because the actual quote from Washington reads, "With respect to the first, I never mean (unless some particular circumstances should compel me to it) to possess another slave by purchase; it being among my first wishes to see some plan adopted, by the legislature by which slavery in this Country may be abolished by slow, sure, & imperceptable degrees." It comes from a letter written in 1786 in which he discusses being forced to sell "Negroes" to pay off his debts. And indeed, just two years later he accepted 33 enslaved persons in payment of a debt — which is pretty close to a purchase.
As for the Jefferson quote, it came from one of his draft versions of the Declaration of Independence and never made it into statute. Both men died owning dozens of human beings, some of whom were their own children.
But Ron DeSantis has an answer for that and it is to shout nonsense about teachers indoctrinating children.
“I think what parents are doing is they are reorienting the school system away from indoctrination and back towards education, where we have a premium on doing what a core part of education should be,” he told Focus on the Family earlier this month.
Because HEAVEN FORBID anyone use taxpayer dollars to indoctrinate children, right?
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