Books

Miami School Board bans sex ed book. It’s Ron DeSantis’ dream

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A woman is escorted away by police officers at the Miami-Dade County School Board meeting on Wednesday during a discussion of sexual health education textbooks.

A woman is escorted away by police officers at the Miami-Dade County School Board meeting on Wednesday during a discussion of sexual health education textbooks.

swalsh@miamiherald.com

Florida’s book-banning movement has found friendly ears on the Miami-Dade County School Board.

After a marathon meeting on Wednesday, the Board showed that when Gov. Ron DeSantis and his allies flex their muscles, the largest school district in the state will fold. In a 5-4 vote, the Board reversed an earlier decision to adopt a new sex-education textbook for the 2022-23 school year.

Banning books is slowly becoming standard practice in Florida education. The Department of Education recently rejected 54 math textbooks, claiming they contained prohibited content such as critical race theory. Herald reporters found that only three book reviewers flagged CRT in the materials, and they were all connected to conservative circles, including Moms for Liberty. The conservative group had its first summit in Tampa, Where DeSantis made an appearance, to talk about everything they find objectionable in public education — normally anything that mentions sexual orientation other than heterosexuality, and race in a way that makes white people upset.

A disservice

The job of a school board in a diverse community like Miami-Dade County should be to defend K-12 school from such political interference and morality policing by name. When elected officials fail at that task, student suffers. The Wednesday vote leaves the district with no sex-ed curriculum for at least four to eight months, the Herald reported. Teenagers and parents will be on their own to sit through information on how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies. Without access to credible information, it’s no wonder that young people ages 13 to 24 account for one in four new HIV infections in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The sex-ed book in question, “Comprehensive Health Skills,” came under fire from parents and opponents who say it violates Florida’s new parental rights law, dubbed by critics as “Don’t say gay.” The law prohibits classroom instructions about sexual orientation and gender identity in K-3 or in a manner that’s not “age appropriate,” which leaves a lot in the eyes of the beholder (which appears to be the point of the law).

Instead of removing LGBTQ issues from textbooks, schools should be doing the opposite. The greatest number of HIV infections occurs among gay and bisexual youth.

The law’s the law

Of course, we don’t want the district to run afoul of state statute, no matter how bad it is. But, in April, the School Board had already removed a chapter that dealt with gender identity and sexual orientation. Superintendent Jose Dotres went one step further and appointed a hearing officer to review the textbook and 278 petitions objecting to its adoption. The hearing officer conducted a public hearing in June and recommended the Board “proceed with the adoption process” for the materials, the Herald reported.

That makes the School Board’s rejection even more baffling and disturbing.

A lot of quackery, bigotry and ideological control is being pushed on public schools in the name of “parental rights.” If you hear the rhetoric from groups such as Moms for Liberty, you might believe that public education is under the control of “woke” elitists and that parents have no say. But Florida already has laws that guarantee the community has input in the adoption of textbooks. More important, parents can opt out of material they don’t find appropriate.

So parental rights and definition of appropriateness does banning books protect? Clearly, not the right of parents and students who want — and need — access to adequate sex ed.

As the Miami-Dade County School Board embraces book banning, it’s a loud and noisy minority that’s getting the last word.

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This story was originally published July 21, 2022 4:23 PM.

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