Ten Florida school districts under scrutiny for LGBTQ+ and racial equity policies

Miami, Florida - Florida’s State Board of Education will meet next week to scrutinize whether 10 school districts – including Miami-Dade, Broward, and Hillsborough counties – are carrying out the state’s parental rights law, which has become a political lightning rod in local school board meeting and national politics in recent years.

Revelers celebrate on 7th Avenue during the Tampa Pride Parade in the Ybor City neighborhood.
Revelers celebrate on 7th Avenue during the Tampa Pride Parade in the Ybor City neighborhood.  © Octavio Jones / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

The Florida Department of Education put the districts on notice last month when it sent superintendents letters detailing their policies and procedures which "may not comport with Florida law."

The law, titled Parental Rights in Education, but which critics have dubbed "Don’t Say Gay," prohibits classroom instruction and discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K through 3 – and in older grades if they are not "age appropriate or developmentally appropriate."

Many of the policies the state has flagged offer protections to LGBTQ+ students who confide personal information to school employees by requiring the students' consent to divulge aspects of their sexual orientation and gender identity to guardians and parents.

Joke of the Night for April 14, 2024: The best jokes to laugh the day away
Joke of the Day Joke of the Night for April 14, 2024: The best jokes to laugh the day away

In letters sent on November 18, Senior Chancellor Jacob Oliva flagged a range of policies and procedures at the 10 school districts and requested a status update on those policies by Friday. In addition to Miami-Dade, Broward, and Hillsborough, letters were also sent to Alachua, Brevard, Duval, Indian River, Leon, Palm Beach, and the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind.

The State Board of Education will meet on Wednesday.

Florida raises questions over privacy and racial equity policies

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared the state to be the place where "woke goes to die."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared the state to be the place where "woke goes to die."  © Wade Vandervort / AFP

Some of the policies that were flagged by the state include "best practices" policies for school personnel to not disclose the sexual orientation or gender identity of students without their input or permission, policies that say all students should be referred to by the gender pronouns and name that is consistent with their gender identity, and rules that allow students to access locker rooms and restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity.

The state has also raised questions about a "racial equity policy" at the Indian River County School District. The district’s policy says it is mean to confront "the institutional racism that results in predictably lower academic achievements for students of color than for their white peers."

Gov. Ron DeSantis has targeted such policies as he declares Florida to be the state where "woke goes to die." During a federal court trial last week, DeSantis’ general counsel Ryan Newman said the term "woke" refers to the "belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them."

Joke of the Night for April 13, 2024: The best jokes to laugh Caturday away
Joke of the Day Joke of the Night for April 13, 2024: The best jokes to laugh Caturday away

In Miami-Dade, the state has zeroed in on policies that aim to support transgender and "gender expansive students" in sports, locker rooms, and manners that pertain to which pronouns students want to use and what private information they want to disclose.

In Broward County, policies that aim to create a "safe space for LGBTQ+ students" have come under the microscope. The state wants to hear the status of five policies, including one that says "it is never appropriate to divulge the sexual orientation of a student to a parent without the student’s consent."

In Hillsborough County, the state is asking the district to provide an update on two policies: a "racial equity" policy that aims to increase academic achievement for "ALL students," and LGBTQ+ policies that deal with "coming out and confidentiality."

The meeting will be held via conference call and webcast on The Florida Channel.

Cover photo: Collage: Octavio Jones / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP & Wade Vandervort / AFP

More on LGBTQ+: