Florida schools expect new debate over transgender student restroom use

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
More than 100 people turned out Jan. 15, 2019, to give the Pasco County School Board their thoughts on the district's policy and procedures for transgender student rights. The issue is expected to reignite debate when the board meets Tuesday.
More than 100 people turned out Jan. 15, 2019, to give the Pasco County School Board their thoughts on the district's policy and procedures for transgender student rights. The issue is expected to reignite debate when the board meets Tuesday. [ JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK | Times ]
Published Jan. 3

The big story: Late Friday, a federal appellate court set in motion another round of battles over transgender students’ use of school restrooms.

In a narrowly divided en banc ruling, the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the St. Johns County school district had done nothing wrong in implementing a procedure by which students would use restrooms according to their biological sex at birth.

“Separating school bathrooms based on biological sex passes constitutional muster and comports with Title IX,” the majority wrote, overturning a trial court decision.

Conservatives across Florida pounced upon the decision to agitate for similar rules in their own school districts. Many had been put off by school boards who cited the case as rationale for not having such guidelines, which LGBTQ advocates have deemed discriminatory.

The sides are expected to square off at the Pasco County School Board meeting on Tuesday evening. Read more here.

Hot topics

Attendance zones: A group of parent activists is organizing against the Hillsborough County school district’s effort to redraw school maps, saying the process lacks transparency and input. • Some parents are worried that proposed changes could affect their children’s eligibility for school bus rides, Bay News 9 reports.

Board elections: Dissatisfied with their 2022 results, Pasco County conservatives are getting a head start on the next election cycle.

Book challenges: The Polk County school district has delayed putting books on the shelves of two new schools, as conservative groups push for additional reviews of the titles, the Ledger reports. • More than 70 books ordered by the Duval County school district will not be placed into libraries and classrooms after being challenged and reviewed, Jax Today reports. • New Florida law governing the selection of school books took effect Jan. 1, potentially limiting the variety of titles on shelves, WTXL reports.

School security: Former State Board of Education member Andrew Pollack is donating backpacks containing AR pistols and body armor to the Bradford County sheriff’s office for use in local schools, Breitbart reports. Pollack’s daughter was a victim of the 2018 Parkland school shooting massacre. • Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey is attempting to expand his influence into schools and other areas of public policy, Florida Today reports.

State leadership: Longtime Florida educator Jacob Oliva is headed to Arkansas to lead its state education department, Flagler Live reports. Oliva, the state’s K-12 education senior chancellor, previously served as Flagler superintendent.

Student privacy: A state lawmaker plans to file legislation stopping the FHSAA from requiring detailed personal student medical information as part of its annual registration process, the Palm Beach Post reports. Critics have said the current process is unnecessarily invasive.

Teacher unions: Gov. Ron DeSantis has called for legislation to prevent teachers from having union dues removed from their school paychecks, the News Service of Florida reports.

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Other school news

Schools close for classes during winter break. That doesn’t mean nothing is happening there. Just ask all the construction workers. • The Hernando County School Board reviewed millions of dollars worth of new construction projects.

The Polk County school district has approved spending $4.75 million on tutoring. It aims to reduce learning gaps for nearly 40,000 students, the Ledger reports.

Several Treasure Coast elementary schools have new vending machines. They offer books to students who get special coins as rewards, TC Palm reports.

The Broward County School Board has a new member. Gov. Ron DeSantis reappointed Daniel Foganholi, who led the charge to fire superintendent Vickie Cartwright, after the board declined to seat a newly elected member who it said was not eligible to serve, the Miami Herald reports. Rod Velez said he intended to keep fighting for his seat, WLRN reports.

A new state law bans politicians from being paid lobbyists. The rule prompted one Miami-Dade County School Board member to resign, WPLG reports.

From the court docket ... A state administrative law judge ruled the Volusia County school district did not violate the rights of a student with Down Syndrome by denying him access to elective courses, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. • University of Florida professors told a court that their lawsuit against the university over a policy preventing them from testifying in controversial cases is now moot, the News Service of Florida reports.

On the calendar ... Gov. Ron DeSantis is set to be sworn for a second term today.

Before you go ... She’s got the moves. Read about how a Hillsborough teacher’s cafeteria dance-off went viral. Then check it out yourself.

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