1. News
  2. /
  3. Gradebook

Pasco school district scraps LGBTQ ‘best practices’ guide, but keeps many rules intact

Opponents to the district’s approach on transgender students say they plan to keep protesting.
The Pasco County school district has adopted a one page guidance for employees to follow when dealing with LGBTQ students. It replaces a controversial 71-page document. [Pasco County School District]
Published Sep. 11
Updated Sep. 11

Nearly a year after the first complaints emerged, Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning has scrapped his district’s 71-page “best practices” guideline for dealing with LGBTQ students.

In its place, Browning has distributed a one-page document telling district employees how to handle such issues as student pronouns and names, confidentiality of gender identity and dress code.

“This will still ensure all of our students are safe,” Browning explained, calling the discarded guideline “cumbersome” and the new reference sheet more user-friendly.

Student safety is a critical concern, the superintendent said, especially in light of a recent anonymous survey of high schoolers that showed the LGBTQ population is the district’s most at-risk group. The data revealed that LGBTQ youth are more likely than others to feel unsafe at school, to be bullied, to feel sad and to have attempted suicide.

The information helped the district identify and address its clear needs, he said.

The district has come under heavy criticism over the “best practices” guideline for nearly a year. Conservative groups have blasted the document, which the School Board had not adopted as policy, because it left room for transgender children to use the restroom and locker room associated with their gender identity.

They also did not like the idea that staff members were encouraged not to tell parents of students’ gender identity without getting the student’s permission.

RELATED: Religious rights group protests Pasco’s treatment of transgender students

Browning removed the language, saying professionals would be following their associations’ standards and ethics. The district never intended to keep information from parents, he added.

But the idea that the parents might remain out of the loop regarding their own children, and that students could continue to use facilities based on their gender identity, still lingered. And the critics did not change their tune.

New Port Richey activist Pat Rogers said she was glad the district listened to calls for removing the “best practices” guide. But she disapproved of what she considered a continued lack of transparency by making changes at the administrative level, without input from School Board members, parents, residents or students.

“I believe in true transparency,” said Rogers, who frequently called for a public hearing on the district’s rules.

Terry Kemple, a Hillsborough County activist advising Pasco County’s protesters, told the School Board on Tuesday that his hopes rose after Browning announced the end of the “best practices” guide. Then he saw the replacement.

“It’s still the same thing, but it’s only one page,” Kemple said, warning the board that the group will keep advising Pasco families about what’s going on in the schools with the LGBTQ rules. “We’re going to expose it to the light.”

Others praised the district for holding firm in the face of those “stirring up what isn’t a problem.”

“What you have implemented is working. Please don’t back down,” said pastor Andy Oliver of the Allendale United Methodist Church of St. Petersburg.

He told the board that too many LGBTQ youth do not have supportive parents, and that almost half of transgender teens have attempted suicide.

“This is a life and death issue,” Oliver said. “We protect all kids. We must protect the most vulnerable among us.”

His son, Liam, also spoke to the board.

“It is very important that we use preferred pronouns. It makes people feel welcomed … and it is the right thing to do,” the fifth-grader told the board. “Growing up and figuring out who you are is hard enough without bullies.”

RELATED: Pasco superintendent considers revisions to LGBTQ school guidelines


  1. Fortify Florida is a new app that allows for anonymous reporting of suspected school threats. Florida Department of Education
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  2. Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning says Fortify Florida, the new state-sponsored app that allows students to report potential threats, is "disrupting the education day" because the callers are anonymous, many of the tips are vague and there's no opportunity to get more information from tipsters. "I have an obligation to provide kids with a great education," Browning said. "I cannot do it with this tool, because kids are hiding behind Fortify Florida." JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |
    Vague and anonymous tips often waste law enforcement’s time and disrupt the school day, says Kurt Browning, president of Florida’s superintendents association.
  3. Rep. Susan Valdes, D-Tampa, during a Feb. 7, 2019, meeting of the House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee. [The Florida Channel]
    ‘One test should not determine the rest of your life,’ Rep. Susan Valdes says.
  4. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. The Florida Channel
    School security and early learning get top billing in the first committee meetings of the looming 2020 session.
  5. This image from a Pinellas County Schools video shows an armed police officer running to respond to a fictional active shooter.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  6. Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco discuss salary and benefits during negotiations on Sept. 18, 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer
    The proposal is short on details, with officials saying they want to work through specifics during negotiations.
  7. Hillsborough schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia holds a back-to-school press conference at Rampello K-8 School, [TIMES files]
    MaryEllen Elia, who led the Hillsborough district from 2005 to 2015, has been an educator since 1970.
  8. Jeff Eakins and MaryEllen Elia, Hillsborough's last two superintendents, were hired from inside the school system. So have all others since 1967. [TIMES FILES] Times staff
    Two more public meetings are planned, and the online survey is up until Saturday.
  9. Pasco School District headquarters in Land O' Lakes
    The board’s 2019-20 budget totals $1.39 billion.
  10. The DeLucio family of Trinity toured the Mitchell High School campus and showed the visit on their YouTube channel, which has more than 1 million subscribers. Many parents, students and school officials were not amused. YouTube
    The proposed policy comes up for a vote on Oct. 1.