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Alabama Board of Education codifies “Don’t Say Gay” law

The language reflects a law enacted by the Legislature earlier this year to prevent the discussion or instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity.

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Teachers at Alabama schools can no longer provide instruction or engage in discussion regarding sexual orientation in kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms, unless it is “developmentally appropriate.”

The Alabama Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to approve the new language, a requirement of a law enacted by the legislature in the previous session.

The wording of the rule basically follows the exact wording of the legislation, stating that “an individual or group of individuals providing classroom instruction to students in kindergarten through the fifth grade at a public K-12 school shall not engage in classroom discussion or provide classroom instruction regarding sexual orientation or gender identity in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

That phrasing matches exactly the wording of the legislation. The only other sentence in that portion of the legislation requires the Alabama Board of Education to adopt rules for implementation and enforcement.

The new language in the state department’s education administrative code clarifies that “in determining age or developmental appropriateness, local education agencies may consider, but not be limited to, the Alabama Core Teaching Standards, Rule 290-3-3.04, or any derivation thereof, and the Alabama Educator Code of Ethics.”

But two teachers voiced their opposition to the rule during the public comment portion of the meeting, arguing that the rule still lacks clarity.

“The consequences listed in the rule are too severe to allow for anything other than perfect clarity, said Rachel Mobley, a former AP English teacher. “If left unrevised, an aggressive parent complaint could result in an invaluable teacher’s or counselor’s termination and loss of certification. 

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“It would comfort teachers to know that any investigation’s results would not be based on subjective language. It would ensure a safer, more inclusive classroom environment for the LGBTQ students, and it would help avoid costly litigation in the event that a teacher is terminated unlawfully due to the subjective nature of this rule.”

However, the language of the rule does not contain any punitive measures, but instead requires any punitive measures taken by local education agencies to be reported to the state board. The sole subsection of the rule states that “a violation of this subdivision which results in any local education agency employee, who holds an Alabama certificate or license, being terminated, non-renewed, resigning, being placed on administrative leave, or receiving any other disciplinary action shall be reported to the State Superintendent of Education …”

Tuscaloosa teacher Dana Pig criticized the merit of the rule, saying that “criminalizing a robust discussion, age appropriate yet robust discussion, about very important topics like sexuality, race, and forcing educators to sell lies to children in the form of half-truths is poisoning our communities and continuously dividing us.”

No board members commented on the bill before unanimously voting to approve the language.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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