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Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona
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Sec. Miguel Cardona cites federal civil rights law in Florida Don’t Say Gay clapback

The Secretary of Education condemned the recently passed bill that effectively bans LGBTQ+ discourse from Florida school classrooms.

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In the fight to protect the rights of LGBTQ students in Florida, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona took to Twitter to publicly criticize Gov. Ron DeSantis for the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. 

"We stand with our LGBTQ+ students in Florida and across the country, and urge Florida leaders to make sure all their students are protected and supported,” Cardona said. 

The bill, officially known as the Parental Rights in Education Bill, passed in Florida’s Senate on Thursday, March 10 and DeSantis is expected to sign it into law. 

In an interview with K-12 Dive last week, Cardona said that he will not stand by and do nothing as LGBTQ+ students become further marginalized. 

"We're going to lift up their voices and make sure that they recognize that our schools are for them and that they have the same opportunity any other students have. So not only in funding, but in policy and how we use the bully pulpit,” he said. 

The bill prohibits teachers from encouraging “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate for students.” 

Educators, mental health experts and LGBTQ+ advocates alike have widely condemned the bill, which contains dangerous precedents regarding students coming out at school, such as notifying the student’s parents or guardians without their consent. 

In response, students participated in massive school walkouts across the state. One protest organizer named Jack Petocz, a senior at Flagler Palm Coast High School is now “indefinitely suspended” for passing out 200 pride flags against the advice of the principal. 

On Tuesday, March 8, Cardona posted a Twitter thread outlining why the bill is so damaging to LGBTQ+ youth, reminding DeSantis that the federal government has the power to step in when it comes to their protection.

“The Department of Education has made clear that all schools receiving federal funding must follow federal civil rights laws, including the Title IX’s protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Cardona wrote. 

Several Democratic lawmakers and LGBTQ activists joined Cardona in criticizing the bill’s passage on Tuesday. 

“These bills shamefully attack and endanger LGBTQ+ students who are just trying to get a quality education, whom the state has an obligation to treat fairly and protect,” Cathryn M. Oakley, senior counsel at the Human Rights campaign, said in a statement. 

Rep. Michelle Rayner, a St. Petersburg lawyer and lesbian, said in a statement that the legislation was “written vaguely” on purpose. 

“I think that some of the supporters of the ‘don’t say gay’ bill, they want to go to court because they are hoping that the court system will agree with their discriminatory practices. But we have a whole plethora of law, we have case law, we have statutes, that say this type of discrimination cannot happen,” Rayner said. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki added a statement above Cardona’s Twitter thread, saying that the President and his administration stand with LGBTQ+ students, “including in Florida where they have passed hateful legislation.” 

 

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