The Miami-Dade County School Board reversed itself yet again on Thursday, voting to approve health and sex education textbooks for middle and high school students that have moved to the forefront of Florida’s battle over what is taught in schools.
It was not just a reversal of a prior decision, but a reversal of a reversal. The board had approved the books in April by a 5-to-3 vote, then rejected them last week in a 5-to-4 vote, raising the prospect of students’ going months without any sexual education curriculum.
The rejection was reversed by another 5-to-4 vote.
“We sighed a moment of relief, because what transpired last week was essentially a banning of books and a banning of knowledge,” Lucia Baez-Geller, a board member who voted to approve the books, said in a phone interview. “That’s a dangerous precedent for our students.”
The original April approval of the books, which are titled “Comprehensive Health Skills,” prompted a wave of petitions citing a new state law that supporters call the Parental Rights in Education measure and that opponents have labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” law .
The measure, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in March, forbids instruction and discussion about sexual orientation and gender for some elementary school students.
The law has become one of the best-known elements of a nationwide conservative movement to make “parental rights” a central political issue, while also criticizing liberal approaches to teaching American history and sexual identity.
The Miami-Dade textbooks cover both traditional topics of sex education, like pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, along with subjects including stress management and drugs and alcohol.
“Much of the content is not age appropriate, usurps parental rights and is scientifically inaccurate and not factual,” Alex Serrano, the director of the Miami-Dade chapter of County Citizens Defending Freedom, said at last week’s meeting.
The decisive changed vote on Thursday was that of Perla Tabares Hantman, the chairwoman of the board, who took the lead in calling the meeting to review the earlier decision, Ms. Baez-Geller said.
Ms. Hantman did not immediately reply to a request for comment, but Ms. Baez-Geller said Ms. Hantman’s decision was based on her determination that use of the books was necessary to meet state education standards.
Her vote resolved the debate, unless it merely represented the prelude to a re-re-reversal.
“I believe after today this issue is going to the wayside,” Ms. Baez-Geller said. “Hopefully.”