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FL House pass several bills, including partisan school board races and expanded sex ed ban

Florida lawmakers kicked off the 2023 Florida legislative session on March 7, 2023, at the State Capitol building.
Adrian Andrews
Florida lawmakers kicked off the 2023 Florida legislative session on March 7, 2023, at the State Capitol building.

The 2023 Florida Legislative session continues to ramp up with the latest approval of four education bills in House.

House Expands "Don't Say Gay"
Citrus County Republican Rep. Ralph Massullo's HB 1069 cleared the House on a near party-line vote. Massullo says this will allow educators to teach children freely.

"This bill does not demonize teachers; it actually liberates them," said Massullo. "What this bill does is allow teachers to teach, allows teachers to take that priority that they’re given and not be involved with the duties of a parent. Its absolutely nothing wrong with that."

The bill doesn’t require teachers to use titles and pronouns that don’t correspond to a student’s biological sex. It also extends a ban on gender and sexual identity conversations to the 8th grade. The bill is awaiting approval in the Senate.

Later School Start Times
In a more bipartisan fashion, the House approved HB 733, a plan for later school start times. Sumpter Republican Rep John Paul Temple is the bill sponsor. He brushed aside concerns that later school starts could cause problems with parents getting kids to school.

"They're kids, they need the rest and it is clear the science shows they need more sleep," Temple said. "It’s up to adults to make those tough decisions and challenges. We will work to get all these issues resolved, but just to say 'you know what, we will move the times and not think about fiscal ways to make good changes that are helpful to kids,' that is lazy."

Under the legislation, middle schools will begin classes no earlier than 8 a.m., and high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m. by July 2026.

School Board Residency Requirements

Meanwhile, HB 411 would require Florida school board members to live in their assigned district on the day the candidate assumes office. That’s a change from current law which puts the residency requirement on the day of qualification.

Partisan School Board Races
Under a major House-approved change, local school board members must disclose their political party affiliation under HJR 31. Miami-Dade Democratic Representative Kevin D. Chambliss argues that politics does not belong in the school system.

"I've never met a kid who has asked a school board member, hey what party are you in," said Chambliss. "It’s one of those places that doesn’t matter."

If the Governor agrees, voters will be asked to weigh in on whether such races should be partisan on the November 2024 ballot.

Adrian Andrews is a multimedia journalist with WFSU Public Media. He is a Gadsden County native and a first-generation college graduate from Florida A&M University. Adrian is also a military veteran, ending his career as a Florida Army National Guard Non-Comissioned Officer.

Adrian has experience in print writing, digital content creation, documentary, and film production. He has spent the last four years on the staff of several award-winning publications such as The Famuan, Gadsden County News Corp, and Cumulus Media before joining the WFSU news team.