ORLANDO, Fla. — The Florida State Board of Education adopted about a dozen new rules on Wednesday under the state's "Parental Rights in Education" law and others, including some changes that advocates assert are anti-LGBTQ.
The board voted unanimously to require the following changes, according to a news release from the Florida Department of Education:
- Notifying parents of any student bathrooms, locker rooms and dressing rooms that are not separated by biological sex at birth
- Creating a special magistrate for parents to address unresolved student welfare complaints at public charter schools
- Preventing the unauthorized sharing of students’ personal identifying information with third-party vendors and others
- Increasing the transparency of elementary school library materials and reading lists, which state officials say will eliminate inappropriate, indoctrinating and pornographic materials in libraries and classrooms
The new changes are associated with three bills Gov. Ron DeSantis signed back in March, including the controversial "Parental Rights in Education" bill. It has been dubbed by critics as the "Don't Say Gay" bill because it bars educators from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity to students in kindergarten through third grade.
School districts may opt to ban topics of sexual orientation or gender identity beyond third grade if leaders deem them not to be age or developmentally appropriate.
“Parents have a right to be involved in their child’s education and informed regarding what is taking place at their child’s school, and moreover students have a right to come to a safe learning environment every day,” Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. said in a statement. “I applaud the State Board of Education for upholding parental rights and continuing to promote the health, safety and welfare of the students in our schools.”
Equality Florida released a statement on Wednesday saying that the new rules to the law threaten the jobs of teachers if they are found to have or participate in any instructions involving sexual orientation or gender identity.
Wednesday's state board of education meeting centered primarily on the possibility of teachers losing their jobs or licenses if found "intentionally" providing classroom instruction on the topics.
Critics argued it would further exacerbate staffing shortages in schools, however, proponents noted the rules are necessary to enforce a law that DeSantis already signed.
Opponents of the rule told the board that teachers are not out to indoctrinate children, but ensure all identities and types of families are acknowledged. However, critics said schools should stick to standard curriculum.
“The Board of Education’s move to target individual teachers' jobs and licenses is another cruel attack from an administration that has spent months punching down at Florida’s LGBTQ youth and families,” Joe Saunders, Equality Florida's senior political director, said in a statement. “Qualified, effective teachers are fleeing the profession in Florida thanks to the constant politicization of their roles and discrediting of their characters by the DeSantis Administration.
"Rather than help to clarify the Don’t Say LGBTQ laws scope, the Board of Education has taken this bigoted law to yet another extreme, threatening teachers if they dare to acknowledge LGBTQ families in the classroom. This escalation in deference to the far right agenda of the governor makes our schools less inclusive -- and less safe."
The organization also said the rules added to the law fail to protect transgender and nonbinary students' safe access to restrooms and locker rooms because school districts will be required to let parents know if they have any dressing rooms that are not separated by biological sex at birth.
“The Board of Education’s facilities separation rule does not and cannot prevent transgender students from accessing facilities aligned with their gender identity — we know Federal law and the constitution protect these rights," Saunders said. "Florida school districts have been following federal law for more than a decade, establishing policies we know will continue to work long after this politically-motivated proposed rule.
"What it does do is attempt to bully and intimidate districts that are providing these accommodations. Ron DeSantis’ war on transgender Floridians must end. All students deserve access to school facilities that are inclusive and safe."
To view the latest changes and new rules to the "Parental Rights in Education" bill, click here.