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Education and Teaching


States Joining "Don’t Say Gay" Law Movement

Iowa enacted a “don’t say gay” law (May 26) similar to those enacted in Florida and Alabama, and which are under consideration in other states. Alabama enacted its law in April.

Iowa’s new law bans lessons on sexual orientation or gender identity before the seventh grade, requires teachers to alert parents if students wish to use new pronouns, and prohibits any books in schools that depict sex or sex acts.

Education Week summarized in February that similar legislation is progressing through the legislatures in 30 states (prior to final action in Iowa and Alabama). It is important to know, however, that similar laws in many states have already been in place for years. 

For example, while Texas is one of the states considering new laws, current Texas law already stipulates that educational materials for those under age 18 say that homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle.  And, numerous states enacted laws in the 1980s banning teachers from even talking about homosexuality.

(posted: 5-31-23)


Florida “Don’t Say Gay” Rules Expanded

The Florida State Board of Education expanded (April 19) certain requirements of the 2022 “Parental Rights in Education (a.k.a - the “Don’t Say Gay” bill), through high school. The law itself applies to teaching through the third grade, though Florida is considering legislation to change its application through eighth grade.

The Board’s updated requirements provide that teaching on sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited through high school unless the lessons are required by state standards or for a reproductive health course. The requirements will be effectively incorporated into conduct standards of teachers, who can then be held accountable for any violations.

Florida’s underlying law bars the “instruction” of sexual orientation or gender identity, though some opponents argue that the totality of the law, including the vagueness of some requirements, could also prevent the mere discussion of this topic. The law gives parents a way to take matters to the court if they don’t like what is being taught, and win relief on attorney fees and court costs.

The law has been challenged in Federal courts, but cases have been dismissed. Other states are considering similar laws.

(posted: 4-20-23)


Florida Schools Book Reviews & Bans

The State of Florida began implementing a process to review books (and other materials) in classrooms under a law enacted last year.

The law requires that library resources (including within classrooms) available to students must be approved by school system employees trained and certified by the state in the standards developed by the state. In general, the law requires that materials be “free of Pornography” and “suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented,” and “appropriate for the grade level and age group.”

For example, books touching on gender identity can’t be available to children through third grade. Books and materials discussing discrimination based on race, color, sex, or national origin could be determined to be inappropriate for some age groups. School employees making banned materials available to students are at risk of a third degree felony punishable up to five years in prison along with a $5K fine.

Among other things, some teachers and school administrators are concerned because implementation of the law has led to the removal of all books from classrooms during a school year until school staff are trained and all books can be reviewed.

(posted: 2-3-23)


School Book Bans

According to a data analysis by PEN America of data between July 2021 and June 2022, schools have banned 1,648 unique book titles of 1,261 different authors. The bans covered 138 school districts in 32 states representing 5,049 schools with a combined enrollment of nearly 4 million students.

Of the book titles banned, 75% were fiction and 25% were nonfiction. Among other characteristics, just 22% of the banned books (357 books) had sexual content. More than 40% had "LGBTQ+ themes, protagonists, or prominent secondary characters." 21% had “titles with issues of race and racism” and 10% had “titles with themes of rights and activism.”

The five most frequently banned books by school systems include:

(updated: 10-17-22)


Teaching "Divisive" or Uncomfortable Topics

Some state leaders are advocating for, or have advanced through legislative and/or executive action, measures that would specifically discourage (e.g. through penalty) or prevent (e.g., through legal action) the teaching of matters that state or local leaders consider divisive, or where students feel bad by the teachings and/or discussions in classrooms.

Florida was the first state in a wave of states that enacted laws banning “critical race theory", or CRT.  Florida's “Individual Freedom" law is  intended to prevent Florida elementary and secondary schools from teaching CRT and other racial topics that could be considered divisive and uncomfortable to students or parents. The law prevents any teaching/discussions (in schools and in workplaces) where “one race, color, national origin, or sex are morally superior to members of another race, color, national origin, or sex" and that "a person, by virtue of his or her race, color, national origin, or sex is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

According to the World Population Review, at least six other states have now officially banned the teaching of CRT, and other states either have legislation in process or have taken administrative actions to ensure that it cannot be taught in schools.

(updated: 10-17-22)


Initiative to Address Teacher Shortages

The Education Department announced (August 31) an initiative to help address teacher shortages around the country. While most of the efforts are driven by private sector actions, the Department will try and help address this issue in a couple of ways:

  • The Department is encouraging States and localities to utilize unused American Rescue Plan resources provided in 2021 to raise teacher pay.

  • The Department of Labor will prioritize $100 million in State and local apprenticeship funding for the education sector; specifically, teacher apprenticeships.

Ultimately, however, the teacher shortage is a systemic issue that is tied to a variety of issues such as pay that States and localities are willing to offer, overall economic conditions that draw current and potential teachers to other fields, and working conditions. Another current factor is the political climate which is driving content and methods of teaching which may not be agreeable to some teachers.

(updated: 5-22-22)


FTC Policy Statement on Online Child Surveillance

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a policy statement (May 19, 2022) stating that it intended to “crack down” on education technology companies if they illegally surveil children when they go online to learn. The FTC says that while digital companies overall are expanding surveillance and collecting information, education technology companies cannot do the same and must comply with the provisions of current FTC rules.

Key provisions of current rules provide that such companies cannot require children to provide more information than is reasonably needed for participation in an activity; companies that collect personal information from a child with the school’s authorization are prohibited from using the information for any other commercial purpose including marketing or advertising; providers are prohibited from retaining children’s personal information for longer than is necessary to fulfill the purpose for which it was collected and therefore cannot keep such data just because they might want to use it in the future; and, providers must have procedures to maintain the confidentiality, security, and integrity of children’s personal information.

(updated: 5-22-22)


Critical Race Theory (CRT)

The Federal Government policy does not require, or advocate for, the teaching in public schools what has become known as "Critical Race Theory", or "CRT". With origins in scholarly literature, as well as teaching by some professors in some higher education institutions, public concerns have arisen because some teachers in public schools, supported (or not) by school/school system leadership, may have taught CRT or concepts inherent in CRT to young public school students. The Federal Government is not taking any actions in this area, but some states and/or localities are enacting measures intended to specifically prevent the teaching of CRT in public schools. 

As explained by Rashawn Ray (Brookings) in November 2021, CRT provides "that U.S. social institutions (e.g., the criminal justice system, education system, labor market, housing market, and healthcare system) are laced with racism embedded in laws, regulations, rules, and procedures that lead to differential outcomes by race." Mr. Ray argues that while racism can exist without racists, some Americans have "not able to separate their individual identity as an American from the social institutions that govern us;" that, because people "perceive themselves as the system" then calling social institutions racist is the same "as calling them racist personally." Consequently, CRT itself is viewed as offensive and problematic in teaching to anyone.

(updated: 2-2-22)


Connected Policies


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Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule
Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule

This is a website with the provisions of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules associated with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

Status: these rules, last modified in 2013, are currently in effect.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

This website of the National Center for Learning Disabilities provides detail on the provisions of law and policy with respect to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Status: IDEA was last authorized in 2004. It is not known when the law might again be reauthorized.

Every Student Succeeds Act
Every Student Succeeds Act

This website of the Department of Education provides detail on the last major reauthorization law (the Every Student Succeeds Act) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the law guiding Federal policy on State, local, and private elementary and secondary education.

Status: this law was enacted in 2015. It is not currently known when Congress will consider updating ESEA again.


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