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MSNBC invited a Florida teacher on Tuesday to share his concerns about being unable to discuss his personal life with his students because of a new state law.
On Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., signed into law the Parental Rights in Education bill, which bans classroom instruction on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” for grades kindergarten through third grade. Prior to the bill becoming law, critics of the legislation dubbed the bill as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and asserted it would prohibit any and all discussion pertaining to being gay in Florida schools, although the legislation itself does not explicitly read “don’t say gay.”
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MSNBC host Yasmin Vossoughian invited kindergarten teacher Cory Bernaert, who is gay, to share his reaction to the education bill becoming law.
“It’s two-fold. It really hits hard in my heart professionally and personally both. Professionally it truly makes me feel like I am not trusted as a professional,” Bernaert said.
While Bernaert insisted that sexual identity is not in his curriculum, he argued that Florida should allow conversations regarding sexual identity to occur in school.
“We should be able to have discussions, and that’s what we’re encouraged to do in kindergarten. Personally because my kids do have questions. They want to know who my partner is in pictures outside the classroom, and I should be able to speak to them,” Bernaert said.
Vossoughian asked whether Bernaert was concerned about whether he could discuss his home life. Bernaert admitted his concerns and said discussion about his home life is part of his role as an educator.
“That’s what we do as educators, we build relationships with our kids. And in order to build relationships, you talk about your home life, you talk about what you do on the weekends. That’s building community. It scares me that I am not going to be able to have these conversations with my children because they’re going to ask about what I did on the weekend. I don’t want to have to hide that my partner and I went paddle-boarding this weekend because then they will ask, ‘What does partner mean, Mr. Bernaert?’ I’m worried, can I tell them what it means?” Bernaert asked.
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Despite the negative media coverage of the bill, polls show a majority of Florida voters approve of the legislation. About 52 percent of Florida Democrats have replied that they do not approve of instruction about sexual orientation to be taught in kindergarten through third grade.