County school boards and charter schools will have to follow new requirements for notifying parents about policies involving access to bathrooms and locker rooms, under a rule approved unanimously Wednesday by the State Board of Education.
During an at-times heated meeting, the state board also signed off on a separate rule that could lead to teachers losing their licenses for violating two controversial new laws.
The rule related to school bathrooms and locker rooms calls for policies to be “consistent with” a state law known as the Parents’ Bill of Rights. That measure, passed in 2021, was aimed at putting into law guidelines for what families are entitled to know about their children’s education and health care.
The roughly 40 people who signed up to speak about the rule Wednesday were sharply divided, with some characterizing it as a way to provide transparency and others describing it as being potentially harmful to LGBTQ students.
For example, the rule will require local education officials to follow certain steps to inform parents about district policies.
“If a school board or charter-school governing board has a policy or procedure that allows for separation of bathrooms or locker rooms according to some criteria other than biological sex at birth, the policy or procedure must be posted on the district’s website or charter school’s website and must be sent by mail to student residences to fully inform parents,” part of the rule said.
The rule will require that districts notify parents which bathrooms and locker rooms “are not separated by biological sex at birth.”
Nikole Parker, director of transgender equality with the LGBTQ-advocacy group Equality Florida, pointed to recent guidance from the U.S. Department of Education aimed at preventing discrimination against students based on such things as gender identity.
“This proposed rule is designed to intimidate school districts from following federal guidance, making schools less safe and adding fuel to a politically motivated crusade against LGBTQ youth and their families,” Parker said.
The federal guidance drew objections this summer from state Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr., who warned schools against making certain accommodations for transgender students, specifically citing bathroom and locker room policies.
The rule also will require districts and charter schools to inform parents about methods of supervision in locker rooms, including how the methods would ensure “the safety and privacy” of students.
Jessica Tillman, chairwoman of the Seminole County chapter of the conservative group Moms For Liberty, supported the rule.
“Not just girls, not just boys, all students need to feel safe in the bathrooms and in their locker rooms. We need to let parents know how they are being monitored,” Tillman said.
Tom Grady, chairman of the State Board of Education, described the rule as being centered on letting parents know what’s going on in schools.
“It’s parental notification. It’s not mandating what a particular bathroom looks like or doesn’t look like or who can use it. It’s about parental notification,” Grady said.
The other rule approved Wednesday will carry out parts of two controversial laws signed by DeSantis this spring. The laws restrict how concepts about sexual orientation, gender identity and certain race-related issues can be taught in schools.
The laws (HB 7 and HB 1557) drew heavy opposition from Democrats and have spurred a series of federal lawsuits. Opponents of the law about instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity disparagingly labeled it the “don’t say gay” bill. Republican lawmakers formally titled the bill, “Parental Rights in Education.”
The rule updates a state code of conduct to make clear that teachers could have their educators’ licenses suspended or revoked if they provide instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity to students in kindergarten through third grade.
Rin Alajaji, a public-policy associate with Equality Florida, objected to that part of the rule.
“Teachers shouldn’t be punished or silenced for acknowledging and valuing every family,” Alajaji said. “This board is putting careers of educators in jeopardy and intensifying the harmful and chilling effects that the don’t-say-LGBTQ law has already had in providing safe, inclusive and welcoming schools.”
The rule also will carry out a measure that DeSantis dubbed the “Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act,” or Stop WOKE Act. The measure takes aim at a variety of race-related concepts that, if taught in classrooms, would constitute discrimination.
For instance, the law would deem instruction discriminatory if it “compels” students to believe that they “must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the person played no part,” committed in the past by members of the same race or sex.
Tiffany Justice, a former Indian River County school-board member and co-founder of Moms for Liberty, argued that the rule is designed to prevent “activist teachers” from breaking the law.
“For heaven’s sake, we’re talking about teachers who are breaking the law. Yes, they should lose their license, commissioner. They should not be allowed to teach in schools,” Justice said.
–Ryan Dailey, Tom Urban, News Service of Florida
Linda Hagman says
Banning books, banning free speech, firing teachers who don’t appease the homophobic and racial fears of a minority–1930’s Germany replay in Florida. It’s time to “clean house” fellow Floridians–vote DeSantis and his fascist supportors out of office this November.
Pierre Tristam says
Or 1920s replay in the United States.
Deborah Coffey says
My God, we are swimming in meanness and hate. Vote every right winger out!
Wake Up says
Yeah you must be right because there is nothing wrong with the sexualization of 5-8 year old children. Comparing FL to 1930s Germany and claiming DeSsntis supporters are fascists is just plain ignorance.
Michael Cocchiola says
So, Wake Up… do you have any concrete evidence or examples of the “sexualization” of 5-8-year-old children here in Flagler County, in Florida, or in America? Or are you just another brainless zombie Republican?
Defend your statement!
There is no such sexualization in schools of course. There’s plenty of it, by those same vigilante anti-LGBTQ parent groups, at pre-teen “beauty pageants” (sic) and in the pre-teen fashion they have no trouble disrobing their own children in. But those pageants and fashions peddle the same sexist, patriarchal objectification of little girls, training them to submit to future objectification by their future male handlers and mishandles, so the vigilantes are fine with that.
R. S. says
Hmm. Suppose one should not reelect activist politicians who are trying to turn back the clocks of history despite all evidence to the contrary and are simply not following the consensus of the scientific community?!
Isn’t there a federal law against LGBTQ discrimination?
The 14th Amendment, but now that the judiciary has regressed back to its Lochner-loving days, it applies to corporations, not to human beings.
So Florida doesn’t particularly care about students getting massacred in class. But God forbid they notice there are gay and trans people in the world. Nice priorities, Florida.
Jane Kranz says
Why, oh why are we going backward?Please everyone: Think Before You Vote! And you Must go Vote.
Paul S says
The ignorance & hypocrisy is amazing.
And that statement probably doesn’t mean what you think it means.
Okay, this is further evidence that the far right have lost their minds. What is this “parental rights” crap, and stop woke b.s.? As parents, you don’t know what’s going on in your kid’s school? Why not? Is there no PTA? Are you banned from meeting with school staff?
Our daughter was so involved in her daughter’s school that I don’t think she missed a thing. She was involved with the teachers, knew all the classwork, helped with the homework, got her daughter into advanced classes, and was at every game, helped with the uniforms and so on. Why do you need a law to get you involved? Sounds to me like the “Moms for Liberty” do not know what their children are doing, and are more interested in stirring up shit than getting involved with their kids.
There is no excuse for not knowing what’s going on with your kid, and there is no need for a law to do it for you. This is just another excuse to blame someone else for your own shortcomings, something that seems very popular these days. Very different from when I was a kid.
Being worried about LGBTQ and black history being taught is also crap. When you were in school, were there no gays? No bisexuals? No people with gender identity crisis? You think they weren’t in your locker room? Were there no black kids or brown kids? Did you suffer from guilt?
Come on, snap out of it. If you aren’t comfortable with gay people or black people, see a shrink and leave the rest of us alone.
Im not shocked that we have live among folks that really believe this is happening in our schools. Parents don’t even teach their kids their address and phone numbers in KGN. Young bright college grads ARE NOT going into teaching to have to deal with all this made up crap. Check out the vacancies in our school system….but wait …the veterans and thaw wives are coming…..LMAO
The only indoctrination I have personally experienced was when KGN play – BIRTH OF CHRIST at Bunnell Elementary in 1987. Some of our students were JEWISH, Jahovah Witness, etc but HAD to participate because it was during the school day.
Hard to believe, but I think school was handled better in the 1950’s – 1070’s, when I was in elementary school through high school, than it is now. Oh, parents knew what their kids were doing, believe me, and held their kids responsible for any bad behavior (I got kicked out of class for wearing a Beatles sweatshirt, and couldn’t come back in until I turned it inside out!). We had a minute of silence, without anyone telling us who to pray to, or that we had to pray at all. Our Jewish friend had his holiday off along with ours, and we were jealous for him having that extra time! :) There was no bullying.
That being said, later, we did have minimal sex education in high school, but for some it was too late, who learned the facts of life the hard way with a few pregnant girls who dropped out, and boys who lied to us girls about their *painful condition* without sex.
I totally believe this is the GOP stirring up fear in order to get the base wound up. “Freedom” does not include the banning of books. I still have more faith in schools having the sense to know what is appropriate for kids to learn and read, and I’m tired of the exaggerations happening today.
Richard Smith says
God I’m glad my two kids are out of school, and don’t need to deal with this nonsense.
One day they will come for all of you. Be silent now, and no one will be left to be loud when they come for you. No one is safe. This is atrocious. No one is doing what they say they’re doing. But surprise, surprise a Republican in Arizona was caught with his pants down outside a preschool. See the pattern? Republican Fascists are obsessed with kids genitals, bathrooms, LGBTQ, and they keep getting caught paying for underage kids on Venmo or diddling themselves around kids. And they call liberals sick? Every single thing they say and do is projection.
Open Pandora’s Box and it’ll never close. There is nothing stopping anyone from suing schools and stopping Heterosexuals from mentioning their spouse, having pictures, or reading books with heterosexual content and any gender identity, even the innocuous this is Susie, Susie is a girl. Nope. Cannot say that technically under the bill. Read the bill. It’s very vague. Someone needs to challenge this.
My ancestors were antifa. They fought against the confederates and the Nazi. I too am antifa as we all should be – against fascism.
First off, teachers SHOULDN’T be teaching out sexual orientation, especially in the K-2 grades which is what this bill says. There should be nothing to deal with sexuality at that age. Secondly, students should not feel uncomfortable with going to the bathroom/locker room and worrying that someone who is biologically the opposite sex coming in. Have a dressing area/bathroom area for those who choose to be trans. Otherwise this leaves too many openings for some real problems like the case of the student who raped a girl because he pretended to be trans.
Michael Cocchiola says
Wait just a minute! Don’t we live in the “Free State of Florida”? What changed when I was visiting family out west?
So has any hetero teacher mentioned their spouse? Their own gender? Have they said he or she in class? Bet they have. Looks like I can file a complaint against all teachers. DeSantis started this – time to show him how stupid this all really is.
Anita Noad says
How will teachers explain the Martin Luther Kings Birthday holiday? Or will they simply rename it Governor DeSantis Day, instead?