For the first time since its passage, the Palm Beach County School Board on Wednesday discussed the controversial “Parental Rights in Education” law, dubbed by critics the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Top school district officials presented specific details of the newly passed law to school board members.
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The bill, which was signed into law by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on March 28 and will go into effect on July 1, prohibits classroom instruction on “sexual orientation or gender identity” in kindergarten through third grade, or “in a manner that is not age- or developmentally appropriate according to state standards.”
In addition, parents and guardians must be notified of all health services offered at their child’s school and may decline those services if they choose.
Schools must also provide health screening forms to parents and obtain their permission before screening a student.
“This is a statute that codifies a lot of the practices that were already embedded in the district,” said Lisa Carmona, senior academic attorney for the School District of Palm Beach County.
DeSantis and her supporters said the “Parental Rights in Education” law will give parents more control and authority over how their children learn about sexuality and gender identity.
Critics, however, feel the move is discriminatory and threatens the acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQ students in public schools.
In February, before the Florida Legislature passed the bill, the The Palm Beach County School Board voted to send a letter to Florida legislators, officially denouncing the measure and calling it “worrying”.
In the letter, Superintendent Mike Burke and the seven school board members said they “strongly oppose any legislation that compromises the acceptance and respect of our students based on race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, identity gender or any other demographics. object of discriminatory exclusion”.
The group added in the letter that “LGBTQ issues are conversations for older students” and are not discussed in the primary grades, meaning elementary school, within the School District of Palm Beach County.
Following the passage of the “Parental Rights in Education” law last month, the Palm Beach County school district said it will follow direction from the Florida Department of Education and is now conducting a curriculum review and will eliminate any book or material that does not align with the legislation.
The school district confirmed that at least two children’s books have so far been withdrawn for review by the district.
The books “I Am Jazz” and “Call Me Max” address transgender issues and are no longer accessible to students.
The district said schools will be notified once the review process is complete.
According to Palm Beach County School Board documents, discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades 4 through 12 “will be age and developmentally appropriate.”
Justin Katz, president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association, defended teachers Wednesday, saying local educators are not violating state standards or teaching children inappropriate lessons.
“There are people in society who think things are happening that aren’t,” Katz said. “Teachers are going to teach. They are going to meet standards. They are not going to do things that people think they are doing to brainwash or manipulate children.”
Wednesday’s discussion was the first step as the School District of Palm Beach County works to create its own policy to align with the “Parental Rights in Education” law. The school district’s policy is scheduled to be officially adopted on June 15.
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