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DeSantis to expand law critics call ‘Don’t Say Gay’ into HS


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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis answers questions from the media in the Florida Cabinet following his State of the State address during a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives, Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at the state Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. DeSantis’ administration is moving to unilaterally forbid classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades, expanding the controversial law critics call “Don’t Say Gay” as the Republican governor continues a focus on cultural issues ahead of his expected presidential run. (AP Photo/Phil Sears, File)

By Anthony Izaguirre in Tallahassee

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is moving to forbid classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades, expanding the controversial law critics call “Don’t Say Gay” as the Republican governor continues a focus on cultural issues ahead of his expected presidential run.

The proposal, which would not require legislative approval, is scheduled for a vote next month before the state Board of Education and has been put forth by state Education Department, both of which are led by appointees of the governor.

The rule change would ban lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity from grades 4 to 12, unless required by existing state standards or as part of reproductive health instruction that students can choose not to take.

DeSantis has leaned heavily into cultural divides on his path to an anticipated White House bid, with the surging Republican increasingly pursuing a conservative agenda that targets what he calls the insertion of inappropriate subjects in schools.

Spokespeople for the governor’s office and the Education Department did not immediately return an emailed request for comment.

The measure comes after DeSantis championed a law last year that prohibited instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade.

The law drew widespread backlash nationally, with critics saying it marginalizes LGBTQ people, and kicked off a feud between the state and Disney, which publicly opposed the law.

At the governor’s request, the Republican-dominated Legislature voted to dissolve a self-governing district controlled by Walt Disney World over its properties in Florida, and eventually gave DeSantis control of the board in a move widely seen as a punishment for the company opposing the law. The board oversees municipal services in Disney’s theme park properties and was instrumental in the company’s decision to build near Orlando in the 1960s.

The rule change was first reported by the Orlando Sentinel.

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Stretched thin, parents have swath of options to save for children’s education

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Red Deer Public Schools adding “Student Support Room” for students desperately needing to take a break

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Red Deer Public to expand its wrap-around services this fall

Red Deer Public will be adding a new element to its wrap-around services in most elementary, K – 8 and middle schools for the 2023/2024 school year. The introduction of a Student Support Room, which will be overseen by a full-time certified teacher, will be meeting the needs of hundreds of students across the Division.

Student Support Rooms will allow students a safe space to regulate on a short or longer term basis, depending on their needs at that specific time. Regulation activities may include release of ‘big emotions’, exercise, snack breaks, sleep, or any activity allowing for connection with an adult or other students. The teacher will use purposeful activities to teach social skills, reduce anxiety, and assist students in feeling a sense of belonging, connection, and preparedness for learning.

“Staff will work hard to ensure that these rooms are a safe and caring space for all students. It is neither a reward or a punishment space, but a tool for any students to use, without stigma, to engage in targeted activities while creating positive connections,” said Nicola Golby, Associate Superintendent of Student Services with Red Deer Public, adding the funding for Student Support Rooms was approved as part of the 2023/2024 budget. “We want to provide a safe space for students to release frustration while maintaining their dignity by allowing for some privacy. This also allows for instruction in the classroom to continue, and provides some additional support to the classroom teacher.”

Golby added the Division heard from families that this initiative was a need.

“It was something the Division had been piloting prior to COVID-19, found successful as meeting a need, and will be formalized and expanded,” she said. “We want all students to reach their full potential, and some students might need breaks in the day or extra supports to make their journey through school successful.”

All schools in Red Deer Public are currently equipped with a team of wrap around services, beginning with the School Learning Team. Members of the team include school administrators and educators, Community Liaison Workers or school counsellors, as well as academic support and other services, to ensure each and every student is well taken care of and are supported mentally, emotionally and physically. There are also excellent services provided by speech and language therapists, a contracted psychologist, and supports for students who are deaf or hard of hearing or visually impaired. This year, the Division hired three more staff to support mental health and increased counsellor time to help support students. In addition, the Division has a partnership with Alberta Health Services for therapists who can be accessed both in school and within the community. The Student Support Rooms will enhance the supports already provided in schools.

“It’s important that we support the whole child, while giving them an excellent education,” said Golby. “This helps set each student up for success in the future.”

Red Deer Public’s Behaviour Support Team has begun hosting a series of Lunch and Learn presentations at each school to give an overview of the initiative and to answer questions staff may have.

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