LGBTQ supportive school guides face scrutiny

The State Board of Education is scheduled this week to examine LGBTQ support guidelines and bathroom policies for transgender students in 10 school districts, as state officials question whether they are violating a law known as the “Parents’ Bill of Rights.” and other measures.

The Parents’ Bill of Rights relates to what families have a right to know about their children’s education and health care.

Jacob Oliva, chief chancellor for the education department, wrote letters to district school superintendents on November 18, outlining parts of the policies that Oliva said “may not yet have been updated” to comply with state law and regulations. of the board of education. The state board will discuss the policies during a meeting on Wednesday.

As an example, in a letter to Alachua County Superintendent of Schools Shane Andrew, Oliva pointed to four policies within a district guide. One of the policies focused on “student privacy.”

“The privacy rights of all students will be respected and personal information about the student, including their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, will not be shared without student or parental consent,” the policy read, with the word “or” in bold and underlined.

Oliva also cited a controversial law (HB 1557) passed this year that, in part, was designed to ban early-grade classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Under the law, parents must be notified of a “change in the student’s services or control related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being and the school’s ability to provide a safe and secure learning environment.” support” for the student.

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“This could include issues related to a student’s privacy, the use of names and pronouns, and the use of restrooms and locker rooms,” Oliva wrote.

The scrutiny of the LGBTQ support guidelines began after State Board of Education member Ryan Petty during a board meeting in August expressed “serious concerns” about whether certain parts of the LGBTQ guidance documents support from some districts violated state law.

Education Commissioner Manny Diaz during the August meeting gave his staff the green light to review supporting documents across all school districts.

But Brandon Wolf, the press secretary for the LGBTQ advocacy organization Equality Florida, criticized the education department’s selection of the guides.

“The great concern of Equality Florida is the protection of LGBTQ students. The Department of Education’s record on these issues has shown clear hostility toward those protections,” Wolf told The News Service of Florida after the August meeting.

Oliva’s missives to school officials in Alachua County and other districts similarly took aim at policies related to student pronouns and rules governing access to restrooms and locker rooms.

In a letter to Brevard County Schools Superintendent Mark Mullins, Oliva took issue with parts of a document titled “Brevard County Schools: LGBTQ+ District Guidance.”

A portion of the Brevard document said that all students “may access locker rooms and restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity or receive appropriate accommodations.”

Decisions about such accommodations, the document said, “should be student-driven and supported by the district on a case-by-case basis.”

Oliva again noted that the policy, and any others that do not align with state law, would need review.

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“After initial review of the policies and procedures submitted by Brevard County Schools, it appears that some of these policies or procedures have not yet been updated to comply with revised Florida law and the Florida Board of Education rule. Condition. This list is not exhaustive, and your district should endeavor to review all of its policies and procedures for other provisions that may not comply with Florida law,” Oliva wrote.

The state board of education’s scrutiny of locker room and restroom policies came after the board in October approved a rule requiring districts to notify parents of such guidelines.

“This rule will allow both students and parents to have full knowledge if bathrooms and locker rooms will not be separated by biological sex at birth; therefore, allowing them to make informed decisions and requests for accommodations or modifications,” reads a summary of the rule published in the Florida Administrative Code.

Policies dealing with other issues, such as the racial equity policy used in Indian River County schools, will also come under scrutiny during Wednesday’s meeting.

“This policy confronts institutional racism that results in predictably lower academic performance for students of color than their white peers,” a portion of the policy read.

But Oliva wrote in a letter to Indian River County Schools Superintendent David Moore that the policy may not comply with a state law related to discrimination against public school students and employees.

This week’s board meeting will focus on policies in Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Indian River, Leon, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. Policies within a handbook for parents and students from the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind are also scheduled to be discussed during the meeting.

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