Orange County Schools seeks to clarify interpretation of Parental Rights in Education Act

Documents show lawsuit has been filed by LGBT-advocacy group

The Orange County School Board received pushback at its Tuesday meeting during public comment for something called “camp legal.”

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The Orange County School Board received pushback at its Tuesday meeting during public comment for something called “camp legal.”

Legal seminars were held last week to prepare administrators for new laws, including the recent Parental Rights in Education Act, known by critics as the Don’t Say Gay law.

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School attorneys recommended administrators remove LGBT “Safe Space” stickers from classrooms for grades Kindergarten through third grade.

They also cautioned employees working in grades K-3 to not wear clothing that could lead to discussions about sexual orientation whenever they might be in contact with students from those grades.

Documents filed by the state show a lawsuit is being brought forth by Equality Florida, a LGTB-advocacy group.

“There are some encouraging clarifications in there that have been rumored to be a part of the law, such as, ‘Can I have a photograph of my spouse if we happen to be same-sex?’” Orange County Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said. “According to this, they have specifically answered that that is not in violation of the law, and they actually clarified a couple of other rumors, as well.”

Jenkins said the legal document will be posted on the school district’s website, though it has yet to be posted at the time of this report.

OCPS sent a statement that included clarifications the legal department sent to the teachers union.

“We wish to clarify any misunderstanding regarding that session. The following clarifications were provided to CTA by our Legal department:

“Students may only use restrooms and locker rooms according to the gender assigned at their birth.” Not an accurate statement. What was discussed is that the district’s current guidelines regarding bathroom use by cis-gender, transgender, non-binary, and gender-fluid students remains unchanged.

“Teachers with same sex partners may not display photos of their weddings or discuss their same-sex partners. However, heterosexual teachers may discuss their family relationships.” Not an accurate statement. All teachers are encouraged to keep pictures of their families in the classroom; however, in K-3, it was cautioned against specific discussions in the event those discussions could be deemed classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“All books that reference gender identity or sexuality will be removed from classroom libraries and the media centers in elementary and middle schools.” Not an accurate statement. It was recommended that any instructional material made available to K-3 students be reviewed for the prohibited content of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Teachers may not display pride flags and safe space stickers will be removed from classroom doors.” Not an accurate statement. Based on the plain language of HB 1557, during the training it was recommended that the safe space stickers be removed from K-3 classrooms so that classroom instruction did not inadvertently occur on the prohibited content of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Teachers are not allowed to make references to gay pride and are discouraged from wearing pride or BLM shirts and may not discuss them if they do.” Not an accurate statement. In addition to the provisions contained in Policy GBI, which govern political activity of staff, those who work with K-3 students, or who may come in contact with K-3 students, were cautioned not to wear clothing that may elicit discussions that could be deemed classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Teachers will be required to notify parents if a student comes out to them that they are gay.” Not an accurate statement. What was recommended was consistent with the statutory language created by HB 1557 that requires notification to a student’s parent if there is a change in the student’s services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being and the school’s ability to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for the student.

“Teachers will not be allowed to use preferred gender pronouns.” Not an accurate statement. It was shared that the district will continue to use the child’s and parent’s preferred gender pronouns.

“The resource person assigned at the RBELC to assist GLESEN and GSA clubs will no longer be functioning in that capacity.” Not an accurate statement. This topic was not covered during legal training.

“Student passing time between classes will be counted as “breaks” for teachers. The district will be scheduling teachers for more than 3 continuous hours with students. (“ARTICLE XIV Duty Day B. 3. d. No teacher shall be assigned responsibility for students for more than three continuous hours.”) We assume this means that no teacher will be directed to watch students in the hallways between classes. Please advise.” Not an accurate statement - this topic was not covered during legal training.

Orange County Public Schools

About the Author:

Anthony, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined ClickOrlando.com in April 2022.