Transgender Students Could Be Outed by Florida School District’s Plan
Author: Trudy Ring
A school district in Florida is implementing a procedure that would out many transgender students to their parents, all because of the state’s Parental Rights in Education law, a.k.a. the “don’t say gay or trans” law.
Trans students in the Lee County School District who want to be addressed by their preferred name and pronouns will have to fill out a form with a school counselor called a gender support plan, and it will have to be signed by their parents, ABC News reports. The form also deals with restroom and locker room use, according to other news sources. If the form is not completed, teachers and staff will identify them under their gender assigned at birth. The form is not required for students who’ve turned 18.
District officials say the intention is not to create some kind of registry of trans students but to support them and to comply with the law. The law, which restricts classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, does not explicitly state anything about pronoun use, but it mentions that school districts should adopt certain procedures to address parental concerns.
The plan is contained within the district’s Equity Guide, which “was developed to protect the rights of all students” and “helps our school staff manage that request to protect the student and follow the law,” spokesman Rob Spicker told ABC News. The school board approved the guide Tuesday.
The move has raised concerns among parents and civil rights groups. “I understand the parents want to be involved in the child’s schoolwork. But this is not schoolwork. This is a personal life,” Arlene Goldberg, cofounder of Visuality, an LGBTQ+ community center, told local TV station WINK. Having the parents sign the form “means a child has to come out at home, and they may not be ready to do that,” Goldberg said.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s Florida affiliate issued this statement: “With HB 1557 in effect, the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law has already begun to stigmatize LGBTQ+ people, isolate LGBTQ+ kids, and make teachers fearful of providing a welcoming and inclusive classroom. Without adequate guidelines from the school board on how this personal information will be used in schools, it is uncertain whether these forms could potentially serve as another way to isolate and harm transgender youth.”
The law, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed in March and which went into effect July 1, is being challenged in multiple lawsuits, including one filed just this week. Also this week, the head of the Florida Department of Education instructed schools in the state not to follow guidance from President Biden’s administration on enforcing Title IX, the federal law against sex discrimination in education, in a manner that also combats anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.
“The Department will not stand idly by as federal agencies attempt to impose a sexual ideology on Florida schools that risk the health, safety, and welfare of Florida students,” Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. wrote in a memo, as reported initially by News Service of Florida.
Equality Florida issued this statement in response: “While Governor DeSantis and Commissioner Diaz are intent on weaponizing state agencies in their war on transgender youth, the fact remains: the US Department of Education has said unequivocally that students are to be protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The DeSantis Administration repeatedly puts the political ambitions of the Governor over the wellbeing of Florida’s students and the result is a state that is increasingly more hostile toward and unsafe for young people. LGBTQ students exist. The federal government has recognized that they are protected from discrimination. Even as the Governor attempts to bolster his right-wing bonafides by hurtling our state toward full-tilt authoritarianism, school districts across Florida should remain committed to protecting all students.”
Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Trudy Ring