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Lawsuit over teaching about gender identity has effects in Florida schools

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Students protest at Gaither High in Tampa against Florida's 'parental rights in education" bills, which critics called the "Don't say gay" proposals, on Monday, Feb. 14, 2022. The measures, now law, face a legal challenge.
Students protest at Gaither High in Tampa against Florida's 'parental rights in education" bills, which critics called the "Don't say gay" proposals, on Monday, Feb. 14, 2022. The measures, now law, face a legal challenge. [ IVY CEBALLO | (Ivy Ceballo/Tampa Bay Times via ]
Published May 11

The big story: Florida’s new “parental rights in education” rules have caused a stir since from the moment they were first proposed.

Now that Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed them into law, the fight is taking on a different dimension. The courts are being asked to decide whether the measure meets legal muster

One of the groups suing is the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“We challenged this ‘don’t say LGBTQ’ law because it’s discriminatory; it’s as bad as we think it is,” executive director Imani Rupert-Gordon told the Washington Post. “This very intentionally vague law will shame and stigmatize not only LGBTQ students but students with LGBTQ parents and family members, as well as any student that rightfully believes and understands that LGBTQ people are valued members of society.”

The case could drag on for a long time, the News Service of Florida reports.

The law already is having an effect in the schools.

The class president at Pine View School in Sarasota County said he’s been told not to talk about his LGBTQ activism during his graduation speech, the Venice Gondolier reports. Zander Moricz is the youngest plaintiff in the lawsuit.

And Lyman High in Seminole County announced it would delay release of its yearbook while it works to cover up photos of a student protest against the law, The Hill reports. School officials reversed course, saying it will have disclaimer stickers added to the books instead, after criticism of censorship from across the state and nation, WKMG reports.

The Leon County school district is working on revisions to its LGBTQ guide to help employees navigate the law while also helping students, WTXL reports.

Hot topics

Superintendent turnover: The three finalists for Pinellas County superintendent visit the district today, including public interviews and open meet and greets. See the full schedule here. • The Volusia County School Board unanimously offered its superintendent job to former deputy superintendent Carmen Balgobin, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. Balgobin, who recently took a post in Broward County, has yet to accept.

Charter schools: A Pinellas County charter school that opened in 2020 has been given a 90-day notice that the school district plans to revoke its contract. The school has suffered low enrollment and struggled financially.

Book challenges: Polk County superintendent Frederick Heid recommended returning 16 challenged library books to school shelves, Bay News 9 reports. The School Board accepted the recommendation without action. • A small group of elderly Collier County residents protested the school district’s planned purchase of state-approved math and English textbooks, claiming they included unacceptable material, WBBH reports.

Taxes: The Hernando County School Board proposed asking voters to renew a local-option sales tax for school projects in 2022. The County Commission agreed to put the item on the 2024 ballot, Suncoast News reports. • The Broward County Commission agreed to put a school tax referendum on the August 2022 ballot despite some discussion of delaying the vote, the Sun-Sentinel reports. • The St. Lucie County School Board decided to ask voters to renew a local-option property tax to support employee pay in November, TC Palm reports.

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Learning losses: A national study conducted by Harvard University researchers found that state such as Florida that reopened early in the pandemic had fewer academic losses among students than those that kept schools closed and held classes remotely, Florida Politics reports. Read the study here. Some observers have stated on social media that the study did not fully account for a large percentage of Florida students who remained online even though schools were open.

Textbook costs: A whistleblower has claimed textbook publishers overcharged the Polk and Lee county school districts for materials, Business Observer reports. State officials said they are aware of the allegations and did not comment.

Teacher pay: Representatives for the Brevard County teachers union and school district reached an early agreement on bonuses in their 2022-23 contract, Florida Today reports. They return to the table in June to talk about recurring raises.

Vouchers: Participation in Florida’s Hope Scholarship program for bullied students declined despite expanded eligibility criteria, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. (Subscription only)

Other school news

It’s the contract renewal time of year. Eleven Pinellas County schools will be getting new principals. • Twenty Hillsborough County schools will have new principals.

Southeastern Hillsborough County faces rapid population growth. The County Commission has approved a road plan to accommodate new schools in the area.

Experts say the sooner a child is diagnosed as having autism, the better the chances for assistance. Some parents and physicians say the wait time in Florida is too long.

Florida has a new financial literacy high school requirement. North-Central Florida residents are optimistic about the course, WUFT reports.

A dead shark was recently found hanging from the rafters of a St. Johns County school. PETA has offered to provide lessons on kind treatment of animals at district schools, WJXT reports.

From the court docket ... A University of South Florida former professor is suing the Board of Trustees, claiming he was forced to resign because of discrimination and harassment, Florida Politics reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s a link to yesterday’s roundup.

Before you go ... Is anybody else looking forward to James Cameron’s Avatar sequel?

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