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Florida school districts still try to protect LGBTQ+ students despite ‘don’t say gay’ law

Author: Christopher Wiggins

As school administrators and teachers struggle to affirm their LGBTQ+ students in Florida, some locales are working with Equality Florida to implement strategies that allow for the use of preferred pronouns and names with parental permission.

In contrast, some districts, with the help of Equality Florida, are formulating policies allowing the use of preferred pronouns and names with parental consent. This civil rights and LGBTQ+ advocacy group assists in creating inclusive guidelines addressing issues like pronoun usage, dress codes, and bathroom use. Esme Rodriguez of Equality Florida’s Safe and Healthy Schools team stressed the importance of these guidelines in navigating the legal landscape while affirming students’ identities, Tallahassee public broadcasting affiliate WFSU reports.

Rodriguez noted that confusion regarding pronoun usage in schools has been a significant issue. The guidelines clarify that students can use their preferred pronouns with parental consent. Additionally, if a teacher is uncomfortable using a student’s preferred pronouns, the team works to place the student in a more affirming classroom environment.

“A lot of school districts were like, ‘Oh my gosh, can we use this transgender student’s pronouns?’ And yes, you can, if there’s parent or guardian signature and permission,” Rodriguez said. “When we’re talking about parental rights, it’s about all parents, right?

Furthermore, in response to legislation mandating the use of public bathrooms corresponding to one’s birth sex, Equality Florida continues to advocate for more single-stall, gender-neutral bathrooms. This initiative aims to ensure privacy and respect for all students.

These efforts have increased since 2018 due to legislation targeting the LGBTQ+ community, mainly as Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, aimed at marginalized people in his war on all things “woke.” The broad wording of these laws, particularly concerning instruction on gender and sexuality, has had a chilling effect.

“Sometimes teachers are scared to use a student’s affirmed pronoun because they don’t want to do anything against the law and lose their teaching credentials,” Rodriguez explained. “So those guides protect the teachers and the district and have gone through the school board attorneys.”

Hillsborough County Public Schools and Pinellas County District, among others, have released resource guides. These guides provide clarity on restroom and locker room access for transgender students, freedom of expression in dress codes, and the overall safety and dignity of students. This initiative continues a broader trend of school districts grappling with state laws while striving to support and respect their LGBTQ+ students.

Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Christopher Wiggins

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