Disney feud resolved as Florida’s parental rights bill weathers numerous legal challenges

Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, which was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis two years ago this month, has emerged victorious in a legal battle.

This week, the parties involved in the lawsuit reached a settlement agreement, resulting in the dismissal of the case. As a result, the law in question still stands, marking a victory for DeSantis.

Soon after the bill was signed, the legislature called for a special session to strip Walt Disney Company of its self-governing status. This action was taken in response to the company executives’ campaign against the bill. Disney filed a lawsuit, sparking a war of words between Disney executives, the White House, the governor, and various federal and state legislative leaders, as well as concerned parents in Florida.

In the middle of 2022, DeSantis’ advocacy for education freedom struck a chord in battleground states, as revealed by a poll conducted by a teacher’s union. By the conclusion of the same year, Florida emerged as a frontrunner in parent-led education, with its public schools earning top rankings nationwide.

In February 2023, DeSantis took action by signing a bill into law that revoked Disney’s self-governing privileges. By April 2023, the Florida legislature decided to expand the provisions of its parental rights law, and DeSantis showed his support by signing a Teacher Bill of Rights. Inspired by Florida’s success, other state legislatures started passing their own school choice and parental rights bills. Texas Governor Greg Abbott specifically highlighted Florida’s achievements in education as a motivation for Texas to implement a school choice bill.

In April 2023, Disney took legal action against DeSantis, accusing the governor of violating its First Amendment rights to free speech by dissolving its self-governing status. However, by June 2023, the state of Florida argued that Disney had no grounds for suing and requested that the case be dismissed. Eventually, in January 2024, a federal judge dismissed Disney’s case.

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On Monday, the legal battle surrounding Florida’s parental rights bill came to a disappointing end as the lawsuit was defeated.

“We worked tirelessly to ensure that the Parental Rights in Education Act would not be undermined in court, despite facing scrutiny from the media and powerful corporate entities,” stated Ryan Newman, the General Counsel for Governor DeSantis. “Our efforts have paid off, and we have emerged victorious. Florida’s classrooms will continue to be a secure environment under this legislation.”

The governor’s office celebrates the dropping of the case as a significant victory against activists who attempted to impede Florida’s mission of safeguarding public-school children in kindergarten through third grade from radical gender and sexual ideology.

A new law has been implemented, which prohibits the teaching of sexual orientation or gender identity in K–3 classrooms. However, from grade 4 onwards, these discussions are allowed as long as they are age appropriate. Additionally, the law mandates that parents must be informed about the healthcare services provided by schools at the start of each academic year, giving them the option to decline these services. Moreover, schools are now required to seek parental consent before conducting questionnaires or health screenings for their children.

According to the governor’s office, activists who were against the law and media outlets that supported them spread numerous false stories about the law’s purpose, structure, and implementation. These same falsehoods were also presented during court proceedings, but fortunately, they did not succeed.

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