The new law, which caused uproar across the country and led to a high-profile fight between DeSantis and The Walt Disney Co., is set to go into effect July 1 and is being challenged in federal court.
“What that creates is a lot of divisiveness, and it also creates a complete lack of clarity with this bill,” said Nadia Combs, who chairs the Hillsborough County School Board, at a recent meeting. of the school board. “I don’t know if that’s the intent of the bill, but it’s very important that we have some clarity for parents and for schools.”
The legislation prohibits teachers from conducting lessons on gender identity or sexual orientation for students in kindergarten through third grade and prohibits such lessons for older students unless they are “appropriate to age or development.
It also requires schools to notify parents if schools help a child transition to a different gender, among other things, or any additional monitoring of their “mental, emotional or physical health or well-being,” the language is expected to have an effect. significant on LGBTQ Student Support Guides that some districts use as a resource for schools and families to help support LGBTQ students and offer teachers recommendations on how to support students.
The legislation gives parents the power to sue schools for withholding information about their children from them, putting pressure on districts to comply with the law by July 1.
So far, the law has led to varying responses from local school leaders while also generating allegations of censorship from students speaking out against the measure.
At Lyman High School in Seminole County, district officials were embroiled in a censorship dispute after planning to delay the publication of a yearbook to cover up photos of a student-led protest against the bill. School officials changed their stance on the issue last week after students objected and instead added disclaimer stickers to make it clear that the students, not the school, were protesting the legislation .
“‘Don’t say gay’ isn’t even a law yet, and you’re already using it to target LGBTQ+ students,” JJ Holmes, a Seminole County student known as a rights advocate, told the school. people with disabilities and the LGBTQ community. advice last week.
In a case that has drawn national attention, the first openly gay class president at Pine View School in Sarasota County, Zander Moricz, claims his principal told him not to talk about his LGBTQ activism or involvement in a lawsuit challenging the legislation in his upcoming graduation speech. School officials “received a signal to mute my microphone, end my speech and interrupt the ceremony,” Moricz said in a series of tweets detailing the experience.
Equality Florida, one of the LGBTQ advocacy groups suing the DeSantis administration over the legislation, says both examples amount to “blatant censorship” related to the bill. The organization, along with parents and students, is fighting the legislation in court, arguing that it marks an “extraordinary government intrusion on free speech and equal rights to protection” in public schools.
“This illustrates how the law’s vague and ambiguous language erases students, families, and LGBTQ history from K-12, without boundaries,” said Jon Harris Maurer, director of public policy at Equality. Florida, in a written statement. “The law is divisive when we should have a state where all students are protected and all families are respected.”
Elsewhere, the new law has caused school districts to revise their local LGBTQ support guides for students to ensure policies comply with new state law. These guides, and in particular one in Leon County which is the subject of a federal lawsuit, helped inspire the expansion of parental rights in 2022, as Republican lawmakers argued plans may go too far to keep parents in the dark about children changing names and changing genders.
In an example of attempted compliance, a member of the Duval County Board of Trustees proposed a resolution stating that the school board “unequivocally supports” the state’s parental rights bill and “disapproves” of the provisions of the district’s LGBTQ support guide. The proclamation also thanks DeSantis and the legislature for standing up for parents’ rights. Duval County encompasses Jacksonville.
“These parents entrust their children to us every day,” Charlotte Joyce, a Duval board member who suggested the resolution, said in an interview. “Having the school district knowingly social transition students into school without the knowledge of parents, I really wanted that to come out.”
Joyce’s proposal drew a massive crowd at a May 3 board meeting, inspiring nearly 300 people from both sides of the issue to attend. The local Florida Times-Union described that police tape was used to create a makeshift driveway through the building as hundreds of people gathered in the parking lot.
Supporters of Joyce’s resolution made comments similar to DeSantis’ statements supporting the parental rights bill, telling the board that “school is for education, not sexualization” and that “teachers should teach reading, writing and arithmetic, not the ideology promoted by deviants”.
“I really don’t understand, why are you so determined to teach the LGBTQ support guide to little kids who have barely graduated from toddlerhood?” said Quisha King, a member of the conservative parental rights group Moms for Liberty.
Still, LGBTQ advocates told the council that the resolution could cause students to “hate each other” or feel unsafe in the classroom. They called on board members to oppose the state’s “anti-LGBTQ legislation” and implored them, “Don’t be a Disney villain.” Opponents of the parental rights bill, including President Joe Biden, say it could further marginalize some students and lead to bullying and even suicide among young people.
One educator described the stark contrast teachers felt compared to previous school years amid the pandemic, when they were heralded as “miracle workers.”[s]” and ” superheroes[es].”
“Only recently, in my eight years of teaching, have I been called a groomer, a pedophile, an indoctrinator and other names that are simply not appropriate to repeat. in public conversation,” said Sandalwood High School social studies professor Alexander Ingram. table.
Joyce’s resolution was finally tabled at 1:15 a.m. after more than five hours of public comment.
And in one incident in southwest Florida, an educator, an art teacher from Cape Coral, was fired for bringing LGBTQ discussions into the classroom.
Last month, Lee County school officials terminated the contract of Casey Scott, a first-grade art teacher at Trafalgar Middle School, after teaching lessons on LGBTQ pride flags and presenting himself to students as pansexual, which made some “uncomfortable”, the local Fort Meyers News-Press reported.
Student statements revealed that Scott asked students to create their own pride flags in class and share details about her personal life, such as having a husband and girlfriend. Scott also told school officials that students had “come out to him,” according to the News-Press.
One student told district investigators that they “thought it was a little weird because she’s telling all of this to a 6th and 7th grade class.”
In letting Scott go, the district said the art teacher was “not following the state-mandated curriculum,” the News-Press wrote.
As all of this unfolds across the state, the Department of Education is paying close attention to how districts are reacting to the new legislation.
Last week, the national education officials called the Lee County School Board, saying local school officials were having “conversations about ways to circumvent upcoming requirements” set out in legislation prioritized by Republican lawmakers, including the Parental Rights Act. The move shows how closely the state is following local school leaders who have in the past opposed the DeSantis administration to reopening schools and masking students during the Covid-19 pandemic.
School districts have asked the state for help interpreting the new Parental Rights Act and others that were passed in 2022, but so far the Department of Education has yet to responded to this request. FLDOE officials said the agency is working on assisting schools with the legislation and expect it to be released sometime before July 1.
“With so many challenges already facing districts, the last thing students need is 67 different interpretations and implementations of new laws that sometimes lack clarity,” Monroe County Superintendent Theresa Axford wrote. in remarks to the State Board of Education this week.