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Florida Demands Districts Comply with New Anti-LGBTQ+ Rules

Bathroom sign

The new rules are seen by local activists as an attempt to "bully and intimidate" affirming school districts.

The State Board of Education in Florida will meet on Wednesday to discuss school district compliance with the state's new Parents' Bill of Rights.

Last month the state's Department of Education sent letters to 10 districts statewide asking them to confirm they had updated their policies and guides to comply with new rules passed by the board in October. Many of the issues cited in the individual letters dealt with LGBTQ+ student privacy, and the use of bathroom and locker facilities by transgender students.

Jacob Oliva, senior chancellor of the Florida Department of Education, wrote letters to select school districts in November citing specific examples where existing district policies and publications did not comply with the new rules. The districts included Alachua County, Brevard County, Broward County, Duval County, Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind, Hillsborough County, Indian River County, Leon County, Miami-Dade County, and Palm Beach County.

"After initial review of the policies and procedures submitted by the district, it appears that some of these policies and procedures may have not yet been updated to comply with revised Florida law and State Board of Education rule," Oliva wrote in the letters.

Under Florida's controversial HB 1557 passed and signed into law earlier this year, parents must be notified of any changes related to their child's health and well-being and the school's ability to provide a safe and supportive education.

Depending upon the circumstances. Oliva wrote to the Palm Beach County School District, a "student's privacy, name and pronoun usage, and restroom and locker room usage" could be impacted by the new rules and law. He also cited as problematic the district's policies for transgender students to "access the restroom, locker room and changing facility that corresponds to the student's affirmer gender identity" and "eligibility to participate in interscholastic athletics in a manner that is consistent with a student's gender identity and expression, irrespective of the gender listed on the student's birth certificate."

One school district pulled its LGBTQ+ Critical Support Guide after receiving a letter from the board. Oliva objected to multiple policies of the Alachua County Public Schools, including those relating to student privacy, names and pronouns, restroom and locker rooms, and other gender-based rules. According to the Alachua Chronicle, the guide was presented in a workshop last year with no votes held on its acceptance, but the board did agree to remove the guide from its website and adhere to the new rules and law.

The new rules were passed on October 19. Joe Saunders, senior political director at Equality Florida, described the new rules as an "attempt to bully and intimidate districts" that accommodate transgender students in a press release at the time.

"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," Saunders said in the statement. "What it does do is attempt to bully and intimidate districts that are providing these accommodations. [Gov.] Ron DeSantis's war on transgender Floridians must end. All students deserve access to school facilities that are inclusive and safe."

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