Florida’s Miami-Dade County School Board has voted to ban two previously-approved sex education textbooks amid concerns that they violate a new state law against age-inappropriate sexuality and gender lessons.
The board voted 5-4 against the books this week. It previously allowed the book in a 5-3 vote in April after parents’ groups challenged it in light of the Parental Rights in Education bill that went into effect on July 1. The law bans “age-inappropriate” sexuality and gender identity lessons from the state’s public k-12 classrooms.
“I voted against it because I don’t feel it is age-appropriate,” school board member Maria Teresa Rojas told 7 News Miami. “There is a portion of the book that is good, but there are portions of the book that should not be there for our students.”
“I believe in the process, the process was done, and it was fully vetted by professionals,” said Lucia Baez-Geller, another school board member.
A man was arrested and one woman asked to leave during the heated meeting, which was called to reevaluate the Florida Online Textbooks “Comprehensive Health Skills for Middle School” and “Comprehensive Health Skills for High School.”
Alex Serrano, Miami director of County Citizens Defending Freedom, was one of several parents who objected to the books because they tell students where to obtain contraceptives, how to obtain an abortion and how to talk to a doctor without their parents being present.
“An 11-year-old being told where to obtain and how easy it is to obtain Plan B pills, in our assessment, is not age-appropriate,” said the father of three. He also told 7 News Miami that he pulled his kids out of public school two years ago.
“Teachers that will be providing this material to children, which is illegal in the state of Florida, and the board that votes to adopt this, in the end — the country, the state and your community, will consider all of you groomers,” speaker Lourdes Galban told the board during public comment.
The Miami-Dade district, the fourth largest in the country with more than 340,000 students, has less than a month before the first day of school to replace the materials.
“We are disturbed by the continued attempt from extremist groups to censor books,” Karla Hernández-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade union, said in a statement. “Our teachers are partners with parents and believe they should continue to be able to opt their children out of content with which they are uncomfortable. We respect parental voices and the choices they make for their children and not the children of others.”
Critics of Florida’s law, one of several parental rights bills that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed, have dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” law. They say it restricts the freedom of students and teachers to discuss critical information about avoiding unwanted pregnancies.
The law banned sex education and gender-issues instruction before the fourth grade and “age-inappropriate” sexuality and gender identity lessons for all grade levels.
“In capitulating to these citizens’ demands with little [planning] in place to replace these textbooks, the board is undermining the expertise of professional educators and putting students’ rights to access information about sexual and reproductive health in jeopardy — their right to be informed about sex, gender, contraception, abortion, abuse, and more,” the free speech advocacy group PEN America said in a statement.
Some parental rights advocates welcomed the Miami-Dade vote.
“We applaud Miami-Dade school board members for putting the health and safety of our children first and recognizing the classroom is not the place to promote a sexual agenda,” Kimberly Fletcher, president of Moms for America, said Friday. “Moms are showing up at school board meetings across the country to counter this radical sexualization of our children and it’s working.”
Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Mr. DeSantis, also applauded the board.
“Floridians want their kids to learn math, reading, writing, and other academic skills to set them up for success. They do not want schools to be politicized by Marxist racial theories and gender ideology,” Ms. Pushaw said Friday.