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Critics say state Board of Education proposed amendment to teacher code of conduct could target LGBTQ+ students

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Norine Dworkin

Editor in Chief

Tuesday, December 27, 2022


A proposed amendment to the teachers code of conduct could force educators to out LGBTQ+ students to their parents. Teachers could face disciplinary action if they did not comply.

Last week, the Florida Board of Education published a proposed amendment to its professional code of conduct that, if adopted, could out LGBTQ+ students to their parents, critics contend.

Specifically, the proposal would prevent teachers from “discourag[ing] or prohibit[ing]” parents from being notified about and involved with decisions regarding their child’s emotional, mental and physical health unless there’s a “reasonable” belief that doing so could cause “abuse, abandonment or neglect.”

Teachers who don’t comply could risk suspension or revocation of their teaching licenses.

VoxPopuli reached out to the Department of Education to ask about the reasoning for changing the code of conduct and whether it would unfairly target LGBTQ+ students but as of press time had not heard back. We will update this story when we receive a response.

Democratic politicians and LGBTQ+ community activists denounced the proposed amendment as a way to extend the Parental Rights in Education law (HB 1557), which forbids discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in grades K to 3. They said the proposal is designed to target LGBTQ-supportive teachers and manipulate them into doxxing LGBTQ+ students who aren’t out to their families.

“If a student says they are LGBTQ+, or if you THINK they might be LGBTQ+, you will basically be forced to out that kid,” state Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, D-Orlando, commented on Facebook. The proposal “goes beyond the current scope of HB1557, which allows parents to take legal action against school districts but is not enforceable against individual educators.”

State Rep. LaVon Bracy Davis, D- Ocoee, said the proposed amendment’s vague language leaves too much to interpretation.

“This is just another way to silence and censor teachers across the state from teaching and embracing the diversity of our students and their backgrounds,” Bracy Davis texted VoxPopuli. “What troubles me most is the threat of disciplinary actions for ‘violating’ these guidelines. This is another tactic of the current administration to fear-monger and dissuade our educators. We saw this last session with the Stop WOKE Act. It is time we stop arming Goliath and help defend David.”

The public comment period for this proposed amendment is open through Jan. 10, 2023. The board’s next meeting to discuss the proposal is Jan. 18 in the city of Fernandina Beach in Nassau County.

“To me it reads as particularly targeting trans kids,” LGBTQ+ community activist Jen Cousins, a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit challenging the Parental Rights in Education law, commonly called Don’t Say Gay, texted VoxPopuli.

The lawsuit was filed in July by the Southern Poverty Law Center against Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) and school districts in Duval, Palm Beach and Indian River counties. Cousins has four children in OCPS, including a child who is nonbinary. (VoxPopuli recently published an opinion piece by Cousins about gender-affirming care for teens.)

“Using different pronouns when talking to the student, helping a student access a private bathroom — these are situations a teacher would now be obliged to tell the parent, which would result in outing the kid,” Cousins said. “This administration is incredibly transphobic and has a rather sick fixation on where a kid wipes their ass.”

In October, the state Board of Education passed a rule mandating that parents be informed if school bathrooms and locker rooms are separated by criteria other than biological sex at birth. Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr., has been openly critical of accommodations for trans students, even sending a letter in July to school superintendents, school boards, charter and private schools, urging them not to comply with federal guidelines that expanded Title IX protections against sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

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