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Feds vow to monitor Florida parental rights bill, Rubio wonders how

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The U. S. Department of Education (USDOE) is vowing to “monitor” the way Florida implements its new Parental Rights in Education. Now Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) wants to know how the agency plans to do that.

On March 28, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill that forbids teachers of children in kindergarten through third grade from conducting classroom discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity, and authorizes parents to sue school districts that they believe are in violation of the measure. In grades 4 and up, parental consent is required before such topics are introduced. At the beginning of each year, parents will be notified of healthcare services offered by the school, with the right to decline any service offered. Finally, the bill requires parents’ permission before a questionnaire or health screening is given to students.

Long before it was signed into law the measure received the “Don’t Say Gay” moniker from media outlets, celebrities, and some members of Florida’s LGBTQ community who argued that it will stigmatize LGBTQ young people and their families.

Right after it became law, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona promised that his department would “monitor” the measure to be sure that its implementation does not violate federal civil rights laws.

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“By signing this bill, Gov. DeSantis has chosen to target some of Florida’s most vulnerable students and families, all while under the guise of ‘parents’ rights.’” Cardona said in a written statement. “I’ve spoken to parents and families in Florida and they’ve consistently told me that this legislation doesn’t represent them or what they stand for, and, we will be monitoring this law upon implementation to evaluate whether it violates federal civil rights law, ” Cardona wrote.

Cardona’s statement also encouraged students who are harassed at school because of the new law or parents who believe their children are being discriminated against because of it, to file complaints with the agency’s office for civil rights.

In response, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and a group of 10 other Republican lawmakers including U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster sent a letter to Cardona asking him how he intended to monitor the law.

“Parents have an obligation to care for the wellbeing of their children and a right to determine how and when they are exposed to different subject matters,” the lawmakers said in their letter. “Parents and students deserve to know the truth about the Department’s intention to ‘monitor’ their parental decisions.”

Their letter went on to ask how in detail such monitoring would take place; whether the USDOE will monitor, or ask any other government entity to monitor parents who exercise their rights under this bill; and how the agency would protect a parent’s right to “care, raise, and educate their child?”

Now that it has been signed into law, HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill goes into effect on July 1.

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