Aug 1, 2022 - News

Florida schools ordered to disobey federal LGBTQ protections

Illustration of a school bus with an activated stop sign showing a pride flag.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

The DeSantis administration has launched another missile in the war against what the governor calls "woke gender ideology.”

What's happening: Last week, Florida education commissioner Manny Diaz told school districts to ignore federal guidelines aimed at protecting students and teachers from discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

  • Diaz said the Biden administration's anti-discrimination language is not binding law and that following the guidelines could violate state law.

Why it matters: Educators will have to navigate conflicting guidance going into this school year.

  • Teachers and schools could face lawsuits for violating the Parental Rights in Education law — dubbed "Don't Say Gay."
  • The state already bans transgender athletes from competing in women's and girls' sports.

State of play: To mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX last month, the U.S. Department of Education released a proposed rule amendment (read it here) to extend protections under the law to include schools' "obligations not to discriminate based on sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation and gender identity."

What they're saying: "The Department will not stand idly by as federal agencies attempt to impose a sexual ideology on Florida schools that risk the health, safety, and welfare of Florida students," Diaz wrote in the memo, which was first reported by News Service of Florida.

  • Diaz also wrote that the federal guidance doesn't require districts "to give biological males who identify as female access to female bathrooms, locker rooms, or dorms … or to allow biological males who identify as female to compete on female sports teams."

The other side: "The irony here cannot be missed," Equality Florida public policy director Jon Harris told Axios.

  • "Florida's education commissioner is circulating a memo without the force of law to claim that other state and federal agencies are acting without the force of law," Harris said. "And, he is threatening every public and private school in the state that they may be violating the law for failing to adhere to his interpretation."
  • White House representatives did not respond to Axios' request for comment.

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