A bill passed by the Florida legislature would ban discussion in elementary schools on sex education topics such as sexually transmitted diseases and the menstrual cycle.
The bill, backed by Republican Rep. Stan McClain, passed the House Education Quality Subcommittee on Wednesday by a 13-to-5 vote.
McClain said the bill would make sex education classes more uniform across public schools in the state and give parents more opportunity to voice their opinions on curricula they don’t approve of.
The bill would prohibit discussion of topics such as sexually transmitted diseases in elementary school classrooms and would require schools to teach that a person’s gender identity is biologically determined at birth. Sex education classes are restricted to sixth grade through high school.
Democrats in the state have criticized a bill that would ban discussion of menstrual cycles for girls under sixth grade. The average age of menarche in girls is 12, with an age range of 10 to 15.
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“So if a girl gets her period in 5th or 4th grade, are girls under 6th grade banned from talking?” Democrat Rep. Ashley Gant asked McClane last week.
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“It will,” McLean replied.
McClain said the bill’s intention was not to punish teachers for talking about periods to young girls, but to “comply” with some changes to the bill.
The bill would require school materials to be approved by the Florida Department of Education and create a school community appeals form that includes contact information for school district leaders, WUSF reported.
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If a complaint is filed regarding pornography or “sexual conduct,” the bill requires that such material be withdrawn within five school days and “remain unavailable until the complaint is resolved.”
Gant accused the bill of encouraging a ban on books, WUSF reported.
“I hope we all understand that by saying we want to protect our children’s innocence, we’re robbing them of their ability to be critical thinkers. They’ll grow up one day.” Gant said last week.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.