February trial scheduled in education fight

Rep. Joe Harding sponsored the controversial Parental Rights in Education bill.

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Posted May 19, 2022 | Florida News Service

A federal judge has scheduled a February trial in a legal battle over a new state law that restricts teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in Florida schools. U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor issued an order Friday that would lead to the trial being held during a two-week period that begins Feb. 13. 

Before then, plaintiffs challenging the law are expected to pursue a preliminary injunction, while the state likely will seek dismissal of the case. 

The law, which passed during this year’s legislative session and has drawn heavy national attention, will take effect July 1. It bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third-grade and requires that such instruction in older grades be “age-appropriate … in accordance with state academic standards.” 

Republican lawmakers titled the measure the “Parental Rights in Education” bill. But opponents dubbed it the “don’t say gay” bill. Groups such as the LGBTQ-advocacy organization Equality Florida, parents, students and a teacher filed a federal lawsuit March 31 challenging the measure. 

The 80-page complaint alleged that the law violates constitutional free-speech and equal-protection rights. Also, it contended that the law violates due-process rights because of “vagueness.” 

The plaintiffs are expected to file a revised complaint by May 25, according to court documents.