TALLAHASSEE, Florida (LifeSiteNews) – A new bill in Florida hailed by pro-family advocates would introduce strict penalties for graphic material in public schools and prohibit teaching students sex education without parents’ explicit permission.
Authored by Republican state Sen. Dennis Baxley, SB 1842 would impose a raft of changes designed to protect children and strengthen parental control over sexual content in K-12 schools.
The proposed bill expands the definition of “child pornography” to include any text describing a minor involved in sexual conduct and also broadens definitions of material deemed “harmful to minors” or “obscene.” Content that falls under those definitions would be banned in public K-12 school libraries and classrooms and on public school reading lists.
Schools districts that do not “proactively remove all such materials” would risk felony charges under Baxley’s bill.
“If the district school board finds that any instructional material, including any materials used in the classroom or assigned or offered as reading material, violates this section, the material shall be proactively removed. This required action is not dependent on a parent or resident complaint,” SB 1842 states. “Any person violating any provision of this section commits a felony of the third degree regarding schools.”
School districts would be required to review instructional material in public school classrooms by July 1, 2023 to check for violations and remove them “regardless of whether the district school board has received any complaint about the material.”
Parents could still contest instructional material adopted by a school board at any time. An administrative law judge would have final authority over a parent’s petition.
SB 1842 would additionally overhaul sex education, mandating that schools obtain parents’ written consent before exposing students to content about “reproductive health” or sexually transmitted diseases. Florida law currently allows parents to opt out of sex-ed, but does not require parental approval to teach it.
“A student whose parent does not give written consent for such teaching may not be penalized by reason of that withholding of consent,” the bill adds.
The pro-family Florida Family Policy Council has endorsed SB 1842, citing it as one of “many strong proposals that have been introduced” in the 2022 Florida legislative session.
The organization has also backed a bill filed by Sen. Baxley, SB 1834 or the Parental Rights in Education bill, which would block Florida school districts from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with elementary school students. Parents would be able to sue for damages over violations.
A Florida House committee has already passed a companion bill, HB 1557.