'Don't Say Gay' law is not forcing Orange County teachers to remove photos of same-sex partners

click to enlarge Orlando Come Out With Pride festivities in 2016 - Photo by Aileen Perilla
Photo by Aileen Perilla
Orlando Come Out With Pride festivities in 2016

A viral meme is misrepresenting the effects of Florida's controversial "Don't Say Gay" law, focusing in on some particularly nasty dictates that are allegedly happening in Orange County.

The law takes effect today.  It bans instruction on sexual orientation and gender ideology before fourth grade and allows school districts to ban such lessons in further school years. An image that is circulating on Instagram grossly exaggerates the provisions of an already fairly terrible law.

The image says that LGBTQ teachers are being forced to remove photos of their spouses from the classroom and not mention them. It adds that rainbow-patterned clothing has been banned from OCPS and that teachers must out students to their parents if they come to them and tell them they are queer.

None of this is true. The meme appears to have spawned from a series of school board meetings and teachers' union clarifications to members in Orange County.  While the Orange County CTA did warn its members to be cautious around the subject for fear of litigation (the job of a union is to protect its members, after all), an outright ban is not in effect.

"All teachers are encouraged to keep pictures of their families in the classroom; however, in K-3, it was cautioned against specific discussions in the event those discussions could be deemed classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity," the CTA shared.

Even the state admits that there is no ban of photos in effect, in their recent motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed against them by Equality Florida.

"There is no merit, for example, to the suggestion that the statute restricts gay and transgender teachers from 'put[ting] a family photo on their desk' or “ refer[ring] to themselves and their spouse (and their own children)," they wrote. "Those actions are not 'instruction,' which is “the action, practice, or profession of teaching."

And while a Florida legislator did try and add language to the "Don't Say Gay" law that would force teachers to out students, that is not in the passed legislation. 
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