(NEW YORK)– A new set of rules passed by the Florida Board of Education to implement controversial laws like the “Don’t Say Gay” and “Stop W.O.K.E” acts are “alarming” in going beyond the original language of the bills to further censor and punish teachers and students, PEN America said in a statement today.

The new rules adopted on Oct. 19 apply to HB1557 (the “Parental Rights in Education” or “Don’t Say Gay” law), HB7 (the Stop W.O.K.E. Act) and HB 1467. 

One new rule (6A-10.081) now decrees that teachers could face the revocation or suspension of their teaching certificate if found in violation of some of the specific provisions of HB1557 or HB7. The laws themselves include no such penalties for individual teachers.

Another rule (6A-7.0713) declares that the provisions of HB1467 apply not only to curricula and school libraries, but also to classroom libraries, meaning that any and all books available in classrooms must be listed on elementary school websites in a searchable format for parents and residents to file objections against. In practice, districts and teachers under these new rules are likely to be wary of including books with any LGBTQ+ content whatsoever in their classroom libraries, under threat of unemployment.

“These new rules continue an alarming pattern of censorship by intimidation in Florida schools,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression programs at PEN America. “The new rules go beyond the provisions and language of what was passed into law this year, subjecting teachers and students to an all-encompassing regime of prohibitions and punishments. There seems to be little concern about how these provisions will stymie the work of teaching basic literacy, or in effect suppress information and ideas that many families and students want available in their public schools.”

“Ironically,” Friedman continued, “the new rules also do little to clarify persistent ambiguity about what constitutes “instruction” on sexual orientation and gender identity, or what burden of proof is necessary to determine when a teacher “espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels” students to believe certain prohibited concepts. This is a recipe for chilling speech in public education, using the threat of punishment to pressure teachers into giving any potentially controversial topic a wide berth.”


About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057