State Board of Education to vet Hillsborough and others on LGBTQ policies

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida State Board of Education is meeting next week to discuss whether 10 school districts, including Miami-Dade, Broward and hillsborough counties — are carrying out the state’s parental rights law, which has become a political lightning rod at local school board meetings and in national politics in recent years.

The Florida Department of Education notified districts last month when it sent letters to superintendents detailing policies and procedures that each of its districts “may not be in compliance with Florida law.”

The law, titled Parental Rights in Education but dubbed “don’t say gay” by critics, bans classroom instruction and discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade, and in higher grades if they are not “age appropriate”. or developmentally appropriate.

Many of the policies the state has outlined offer protection to LGBTQ students who entrust personal information to school employees by requiring their consent to disclose aspects of their sexual orientation and gender identity to guardians and parents.

Related: Florida presses Hillsborough schools on policies related to race and LGBTQ students

In letters sent Nov. 18, Senior Chancellor Jacob Oliva noted a variety of policies and procedures across the 10 school districts and requested an update on the status of those policies by Friday. In addition to Miami-Dade, Broward, and Hillsborough, letters were also sent to Alachua, Brevard, Duval, Indian River, Leon, Palm Beach, and the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind.

The State Board of Education will meet on Wednesday.

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Some of the policies outlined by the state include “best practice” policies for school personnel not to reveal students’ sexual orientation or gender identity without their input or permission; policies that say all students must be referred to by gender pronouns and names that are consistent with their gender identity, and rules that allow students to access locker rooms and restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity.

The state has also raised questions about a “racial equity policy” in the Indian River County School District. The district’s policy says it is intended to confront “institutional racism that results in predictably lower academic achievement for students of color than their white peers.”

Governor Ron DeSantis has focused on such policies, declaring Florida the state where “the awakening goes to die.” During a federal court trial last week, DeSantis’ general counsel Ryan Newman said the term “awakening” refers to the “belief that there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them.”

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In Miami-Dade, the the state has focused on policies that aim to support transgender and “gender expansive” students in sports, dress, and mannerisms related to what pronouns students want to use and what private information they want to reveal.

In Broward County, policies that aim to create a “safe space for LGBTQ+ studentshave come under the microscope. The state wants to hear the status of five policies, including one that says “it is never appropriate to disclose a student’s sexual orientation to parents without the student’s consent.”

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Y in Hillsborough Countythe state is asking the district to provide an update on two policies: a “racial equity” policy that aims to increase academic achievement for “ALL students” and LGBTQ policies that deal with “coming out and confidentiality.”

The meeting will take place through a conference call and webcast on the florida canal.