News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE —Closing the book on a legal fight that drew national attention, the state and attorneys for a group of parents, educators and students reached a settlement in a battle over a 2022 law that restricts instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in schools.

The settlement, which came after months of talks, seeks to draw a distinction between preventing “classroom instruction” about gender identity and sexual orientation and other school contexts in which the subjects might come up.
Both sides agreeing to the settlement essentially claimed the development as victories, with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office calling it a “major win” and LGBTQ-advocacy group Equality Florida describing it as “historic.”
The dispute has revolved around the controversial law that supporters formally named the “Parental Rights in Education” law but opponents labeled the “don’t say gay” measure.
The initial law passed in 2022 prevented instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade and required that such instruction be “age-appropriate … in accordance with state academic standards” in older grades.
The Republican-controlled Legislature and DeSantis went further last year by approving a bill to broaden the prohibition to pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.
The eight-page settlement quoted documents filed earlier in the case, including one that said typical “class participation and schoolwork are not ‘instruction,’ even if a student chooses to address sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The agreement also said the state would advise that a legal recital addressing many key issues “sets forth considered positions the state of Florida has taken in court about the scope and meaning of the statute and shall encourage the school districts to send a copy of this agreement to the principals of the schools within their respective districts.”
The plaintiffs agreed to drop the case, contingent on the state Department of Education providing copies of the settlement and the recitals to each school board in the state, according to the document.
In announcing the settlement Monday, DeSantis’ office called it a “major win against the activists who sought to stop Florida’s efforts to keep radical gender and sexual ideology out of the classrooms of public-school children in kindergarten through third grade (5- to 9-year-olds).”
Meanwhile, Equality Florida also touted the settlement.
“This agreement successfully dismantles the most harmful impacts of the law, ensuring it cannot be wielded as a tool of discrimination against LGBTQ+ students, educators, and families,” Equality Florida said in a news release.


DeSantis on Friday continued signing some of the first wave of measures from the 2024 legislative session that have arrived on his desk, visiting the Polk County sheriff’s office and speaking behind a placard that read “stop illegal immigration.”
The governor put ink on three immigration-related bills that seek to crack down on the use of what are known as “community” identification cards, strengthen criminal penalties for people who previously have been deported and stiffen punishments for repeatedly driving without licenses.
Community ID cards, which typically are issued by non-profit organizations or other non-governmental groups, cannot be used for purposes such as driving or voting but are intended to serve as an alternative form of identification.
The measure targeting such identifications (HB 1451) will prevent counties and municipalities from accepting community IDs if the cards were issued by groups that have provided such identification to people who are in the country illegally.
The bill builds on a measure approved last year that prohibited local governments from providing money for issuing identification cards to undocumented immigrants.
DeSantis referred to the cards as “rogue identifications.” But during legislative debate about the bill last week, Democrats defended their use as an essential tool connecting vulnerable Floridians to needed resources.
During the appearance Friday in Polk County, DeSantis also signed a bill (SB 1036) that will increase criminal penalties for immigrants who are arrested for felonies after illegally re-entering the U.S. following deportation for earlier crimes. Also, he signed a measure (HB 1589) that will increase penalties for driving without a valid license more than once.
“In the state of Florida, if you have been deported and you come to this state, and enter our state and you’re here illegally, and you commit crimes, we are throwing the book at you,” DeSantis said about the bill dealing with previously deported people.


While it shouldn’t come as a surprise, DeSantis on Friday also confirmed that he intends to put his John Hancock on the Legislature’s final product of a measure that seeks to keep young people off of social media.
“We really want our kids to not just be wedded to a handful of social media apps,” DeSantis said during the Polk County appearance. “I don’t think, ultimately, that’s something that is going to be healthy for our society as our kids grow up.”
After vetoing an earlier version, the governor made clear he will sign the bill (HB 3) that would prevent children under age 16 from opening social-media accounts. The revamped version of the bill, however, would allow parents to give consent for 14- and 15-year-olds to have accounts. Children under 14 could not open accounts.
“I think that that’s a good balance there that’s being struck,” said DeSantis.

STORY OF THE WEEK: The state and attorneys for students, parents and teachers have settled a battle about a 2022 Florida law that restricts instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in schools.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “To begin with, this legislation is completely unnecessary. In Florida or any other state, killing any animal in a legitimate act of self-defense is already permissible under common law.” — The South Florida Wildlands Association, urging members to ask Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto a measure (HB 87) that would allow people to kill bears when they believe it is necessary to avoid a threat of death or serious injury.