The battle lines have been drawn, and once again my home state of Florida is in the crosshairs. Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed legislation that would restrict public school teachers from giving lessons about sexual orientation and gender identity to the youngest kids—Kindergarteners through third graders. The law will also make sure that similar discussions for older kids stay age-appropriate.
Ensuring that discussions about sex in school are age-appropriate—including minimizing discussion for children under eight who have (or should have) no concept of sexuality at all—used to be considered common sense. In fact, for most Americans, it still is. A Public Opinion Strategies poll found two-thirds of Americans agreed that gender identity discussions in K-3 classrooms were inappropriate.
You wouldn’t guess that from the backlash to what the Left has cleverly termed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Activists, Democratic politicians and their allies in business and the media have tried to turn this issue into the new civil rights frontier, and paint the new legislation as some sort of “Jim Crow” law targeting the LGBTQ community. Disney—which collaborates with Chinese communists to film movies in the prison-province of Xinjiang—has vowed to fight this legislation tooth and nail. One of its executives recently vowed to make 50 percent of Disney’s cartoon characters LGBTQ or other minorities by the end of this year. This kind of manic overcorrection obscures what should be a very simple point: people can be for gay rights but also not want their seven-year-old children to discuss sexuality—of any sort—in school.
Teachers are only too happy to pour fuel on the fire. “I know my kindergarten standards through and through,” one Florida teacher huffed to MSNBC, “and nowhere in our curriculum does it have anything about teaching sexual orientation or sexual identity. I am afraid for my colleagues, myself, and my students.” If state standards don’t call for teaching this content anyway, then why be “afraid” of a law that simply confirms those standards? State standards can be altered, but Gov. DeSantis has made sure that this particular component is now codified as a matter of law. In doing so, he has responded to the will of parents who want to be able to discuss sensitive matters with their very young children in the way they choose, not in the way teachers and their left-wing union reps demand.
The fight in Florida shows how personal these issues can get. This is just the latest of many ugly disputes we’ve seen in city halls and school board chambers across the country, as fed-up parents challenging the powers that be are called “bigots” for objecting to sexualized elementary school curricula, or called “racists” for objecting to lessons influenced by critical race theory or the 1619 Project. The arguments extend to neighborhood group chats and message boards, as parents on different sides suddenly find themselves disinvited from each others’ barbecues or playdates.
And yet, there is hope. The election of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin in Virginia last year, after a campaign that actually listened to parents’ concerns, showed that this is a winning issue. If Democrats refuse to pay attention and instead double down on fringe educational theories, they will continue to pay the price at the ballot box.
I know how awful these arguments can be. I’ve been an advocate for parental rights in education for 10 years, and I served on my local school board and on the state education committee. I lost many friends in my PTA because I wouldn’t get on board with the latest woke ideology. Today I work to train parents all over America to stand up and put themselves forward to fight for sanity in their local schools. I’ve heard their stories, and I’ve heard them ask why they should fight this fight.
At best, they may lose some friends in the local parents’ group. The woke “cool moms” may not have them over for wine night. At worst, the U.S. Department of Justice may label them domestic terrorists. It’s going to be uncomfortable, and that’s okay. Take it from a longtime veteran of these battles: when it comes to making a better, saner world for our kids, the fight is worth it.
Laura Zorc is the executive director of parent activist group Building Education for Students Together.