Pupils in a Florida school district will only be reading excerpts of Shakespeare rather than the full plays after new guidelines regarding sexual content in the curriculum were brought in.
Hillsborough County informed teachers that parts of the Bard’s classics contain sections which are sexual in nature and therefore cannot be taught following the passing of the Parental Rights in Education Act.
The legislation, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law by its opponents, limits classroom materials that “contain pornography or obscene depictions of sexual conduct”.
Other reasons included revised state standards and an effort to get students to read a wide variety of books for new state exams, the school district said in an emailed statement on Tuesday.
Several Shakespeare plays use suggestive puns and innuendo, and it is implied that the protagonists have had premarital sex in “Romeo and Juliet.”
The playwright’s books will however be available for checkout at media centres at schools, the district said.
“First and foremost, we have not excluded Shakespeare from our high school curriculum.
“Students will still have the physical books to read excerpts in class,” the statement said.
“Curriculum guides are continually reviewed and refined throughout the year to align with state standards and current law.”
The first was passed last year and prohibited classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in lower grades.
The second law passed this year extended the prohibition on gender and sexual orientation discussion to other grades.
It also prevents students and teachers from being required to use preferred pronouns that don’t correspond to biological sex and strengthens the system by which people can lodge challenges against school books.
Republicans said at the time that the bill was intended to shield children from sexualised content.
Underscoring the confusion over what is allowed in schools, Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz on Tuesday put “Romeo and Juliet” on his list of books he is recommending that students read in August.
“This month’s book recommendations provide a variety of reading materials that students will find uplifting and will spark a love for literacy,” Diaz said in a statement.