Place strategy

DeSantis opts for a curious spot to sign the so-called Don’t Say Gay bill

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a GOP-backed bill Monday that will prevent educators from teaching public elementary school students about gender identity and sexual orientation.

The legislation, which critics have rightly called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, prohibits such lesson plans until third grade and limits the teaching of such subjects in a manner “appropriate to the age” or “developmentally appropriate”. This nebulous standard leaves a lot of interpretation to schools who may want to ban LGBTQ-focused lesson plans.

DeSantis spends much of the bill signing event spreading misinformation about opponents of the bill, which include Democratic lawmakers and big corporations such as Disney.

“They support the sexualization of kids in kindergarten,” DeSantis said. “They support injecting woke gender ideology into second grade classrooms. They support allowing schools to transition students to a different gender without parental knowledge – let alone parental consent.

DeSantis’ gay and transphobic speech played on the stereotypes he invoked in previous speeches.

Observers on social media noted, however, that DeSantis chose a remarkably odd venue to sign the bill: a charter school that won’t be required to comply with the law.

Some have speculated that DeSantis chose Spring Hill Classic Preparatory School — a school exempt from his new bill and which would have allowed anti-LGBTQ student groups — to avoid potential backlash from students who s oppose his bill. (Student-led protests against the bill have erupted across Florida in recent weeks.)

But DeSantis choosing a charter school for the bill’s signing also signals the GOP’s strategy of promoting and proliferating charter schools — which can evade regulations conservatives dislike — while instituting laws that restrict and hamper public schools.

Republicans like DeSantis, who denounce pandemic safety measures and oppose lesson plans on gender and racial inequalities, have mocked the public school system while considering private and charter schools as places where they can spread their conservative ideas unchecked (often with public tax dollars).

Enrollment at Florida charter schools has increased during the pandemic, and nearly 350,000 students are currently attending charter schools, according to the Florida Department of Education.

We have to see DeSantis’ decision to sign the “Don’t Say Gay” bill into this charter school for what it was: Equal parts cowardly and calculated, it was an indicator of how the conservative movement intends to try to take control of all sectors of American education.