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Photo Illustration: Florida governor Ron DeSantis
MSNBC / Getty Images

DeSantis opts for curious place to sign so-called Don't Say Gay bill

The Florida governor picked a charter school that will be exempt from the law as the setting. It was both cowardly and calculated.


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a GOP-backed bill on Monday that will bar educators from teaching students in public grade schools about gender identity and sexual orientation. 

The legislation, which critics have justifiably deemed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, prohibits such lesson plans through the third grade, and restricts the teachings of these topics to a manner that is "age-appropriate" or "developmentally appropriate.” That nebulous standard leaves a lot of interpretation to schools that may want to bar LGBTQ-oriented lesson plans all together. 

DeSantis spend much of the bill-signing event spreading misinformation about the bill’s opponents, which include Democratic lawmakers and major corporations such as Disney.

“They support sexualizing kids in kindergarten,” DeSantis claimed. “They support injecting woke gender ideology into second-grade classrooms. They support enabling schools to transition students to a different gender without the knowledge of the parent — much less without the parent’s consent.”

DeSantis’s homo- and trans-phobic speech played to stereotypes he's invoked in previous speeches. 

Observers on social media noted, though, that DeSantis chose a remarkably odd venue to sign the bill: a charter school that will not be forced to comply with the law. 

Some theorized that DeSantis chose the Classical Preparatory School in Spring Hill — a school exempt from his new bill and one that has reportedly permitted anti-LGBTQ student groups — to avoid potential backlash from students who oppose his bill. (Student-led protests against the bill have popped up across Florida in recent weeks). 

But DeSantis choosing a charter school for the bill 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 hinder public schools.

Republicans like DeSantis, who bash pandemic safety measures and oppose lesson plans about gender- and race-based inequality, have derided the public school system while looking to private and charter schools as places where they can spread their conservative ideas unchecked (often with public tax dollars). 

Enrollment in Florida charter schools ticked up during the pandemic, and nearly 350,000 students currently attend charter schools, according to the Florida Department of Education

We need to see DeSantis’ decision to sign the "Don't Say Gay" bill at 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.