Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants Texas to replicate Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law and regulate school libraries in the next session.
In a campaign email as part of his re-election bid, Patrick said such legislation would be a priority for his office. The email arrived late Monday after setting out about 80 priorities he wants lawmakers to consider ahead of the next legislative session.
In the email, which begins with a tirade against Disney, Patrick wrote that he was angry with the company for pushing back against Florida’s law, which he called mandatory “schools cannot sexualize children in primary school”.
“I will make this law a top priority in the next session,” wrote Patrick, a Republican. “This issue will be addressed at our interim Education Committee hearings under Parental Rights.”
Patrick wants state senators to tackle a wide range of charges ahead of the 2023 session, asking them to make recommendations to address school library books, college tenure and other culture war issues education.
But that campaign commitment is intensifying and building his plans for the Senate by signaling that Florida will be a model.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently signed a bill banning the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, a policy that has sparked intense national scrutiny of the from critics who say it marginalizes LGBT people.
LGBT advocates, students, Democrats, the entertainment industry and the White House have dubbed the measure the “Don’t Say Gay” law. Gay rights advocates have since sued DeSantis over the law, saying in their lawsuit that “this effort to control young minds through state censorship — and to demean LGBTQ lives by denying their reality — is a serious abuse of power”.
It comes as red states, including Texas, have pushed efforts in recent months that alarm members of the LGBT community. In recent weeks, families have gone to court to challenge Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders for state agencies — including child protective services — to investigate reports of transgender children in care. of gender affirmation.
DeSantis and other Republicans have repeatedly said the new law is reasonable and that parents, not teachers, should discuss sexual orientation and gender identity with their children.
The law took effect just days after DeSantis signed a separate law that could restrict which books elementary schools can keep in their libraries or use for instruction.
Patrick also asked the Senate Education Committee to provide an update on public school policies on how titles end up in campus libraries, specifically asking lawmakers to recommend measures that would ensure that all materials from library are age-appropriate and that parents have a way to search publicly. through them.
Patrick’s accusation comes as the culture war over what students read continues to escalate.
Conservative heads of state have repeatedly tried to brand headlines about gender and sexuality as “pornographic” and are urging districts to purge their buildings of them. Many books on the history of racism in America and stories centered on black characters or people of color are also reviewed.
A spokesperson for Patrick was not immediately available for comment. In a statement about the tentative charges he laid out, Patrick noted that they “reflected my priorities, the priorities Texans shared with me as I traveled the state and those of members of the Texas Senate.”
Education advocates have denounced statewide efforts to restrict access to the books as a partisan attack on various stories that help children learn more about themselves and those who are different from them.
Last month, a group of Texas House Republicans sent out a letter asking districts to pledge not to partner with booksellers who supply “pornographic material” to campuses.
Abbott, who is also seeking re-election, previously ordered the State Board of Education and the Texas Library and Archives Commission to develop standards to prevent the presence of “pornography and other obscene material” in schools.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the American Library Association released a new report highlighting an unprecedented number of attempted book bans. Most of the targeted books, the association found, were written by or about black or LGBT people.
Several school districts in North Texas have pulled books from libraries under pressure from state leaders.
It’s part of a troubling trend, warn civil rights groups.
The ACLU of Texas, for example, recently sent a letter to Granbury ISD leaders accusing them of violating students’ First Amendment rights by removing books from library shelves. Keller ISD is being investigated by the Texas Education Agency after a complaint about library books with “sexually explicit content.” They reviewed dozens of disputed books behind closed doors.
A coalition of organizations also recently launched a “Teach the Truth” campaign to oppose attempts to ban books in Texas.
Patrick also wants state senators to look at ways to give parents the opportunity “to exercise greater influence over their child’s learning environment.” It comes as Tory leaders have embraced ‘parents’ rights’ as a new rallying cry.
Abbott, for example, unveiled a declaration of parental rights at a campaign event in North Texas during the governor’s primary. Some political observers see it as a way to pit parents against teachers and turn education into a corner issue during election season.
Patrick has also stepped up his attacks on tenure. He asked lawmakers to review academic tenure policies in the Texas higher education landscape and investigate proposals that have worked elsewhere to eliminate tenure.
Underlying these efforts is the conservative backlash against critical race theory.
The academic framework, which probes how policies and laws support systemic racism, has been co-opted by some Republican leaders and used to decry a wide range of schools’ diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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