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Largest Fla. school district rejects LGBTQ History Month

Miami-Dade School Board rejected proclamation by 8-1 vote margin

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Audience members react with rancor during debate on an LGBTQ History Month proclamation (Screenshot from WPLG/YouTube)

The Miami-Dade School Board on Wednesday rejected, by an 8-1 vote, a proclamation recognizing October as LGBTQ History Month in the district. This proclamation mirrored a nearly identical proclamation approved by the board with a 7-1 vote last year.

The board’s lone non-voting student advisor Andrea S. Pita Mendez, told WPLG that she was very scared during the meeting. School security had to intervene when the crowd got rowdy after Mendez, 17, said she supported the recognition of LGBTQ History Month after talking to her peers.

“Our students want this to pass,” said Mendez.

School board member Luisa Santos, who represents District 9, told WPLG she was outraged by the way the adults who were in the room disrespected Mendez. Some of the adults booed the high school student who was attending the second meeting of her term.

The measure, introduced by board member Lucia Baez Geller, would have symbolically declared October LGBTQ History Month in Miami-Dade County Public Schools and included a request to district staff to explore ways to support 12th grade civics teachers interested in including landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases on marriage equality and nondiscrimination in their course work.

During the public comments, many of the statements made were decidedly homophobic and transphobic with emphasis on religious freedoms and parental rights. Amid the mention of religion WPLG noted that MaryBeth Loretta, a clinician at the Alliance for LGBTQ+ Youth, asked the members to support the recognition “like Christ would do.”

The Miami-Dade School Board’s majority during the debate made statements that indicated that the vote to reject was due to seeing the proclamation being in conflict with the state’s Parental Rights in Education bill, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Eulalia Maria Jimenez, the chair of Moms for Liberty Miami-Dade, asked the school board members to vote against the recognition and said it equated to “indoctrination.”

“Tonight’s vote is one more proof point of the sweeping chilling effect of Florida’s discriminatory Don’t Say LGBTQ law and the toxic anti-LGBTQ environment being fostered by Gov. DeSantis,” said Equality Florida Senior Political Director Joe Saunders.

“The Don’t Say LGBTQ law is rooted in the same dangerous tropes about LGBTQ people and baseless attacks on teachers that were on full display in public comments at last night’s hearing. We are shocked and alarmed to see this reversal from the Miami-Dade School Board. This is a horrible signal to send to the thousands of LGBTQ youth in Miami-Dade County public schools. Voting down this simple recognition of our LGBTQ community makes our schools less safe.”

In a statement released Thursday, Equality Florida, the largest statewide LGBTQ rights group, thanked Baez-Geller, who sponsored the LGBTQ History Month proclamation [and] “stood strong in the face of unprecedented vitriol from extremists last night.”

“Nearly every board member opposing the resolution voiced their belief that the proclamation violated the Don’t Say LGBTQ Law, further evidence of the sweeping censorship of this law. Across the state, the law has fueled bans on books and ‘safe space’ stickers and has led to dangerous policies targeting transgender students. Miami-Dade County Public Schools have a long history of leading on common sense policies that include, recognize, and protect LGBTQ youth. Last night, board members abandoned that mission in service to anti-LGBTQ fear, misinformation, and a governor obsessed with a future presidential run,” the statement added.

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Florida

DeSantis reelected in Fla.

Republican incumbent signed state’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

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(YouTube screenshot)

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday defeated Democrat Charlie Crist in the state’s gubernatorial election.

DeSantis as of 8:12 p.m. ET was ahead of Crist by a 57.5-41.9 percent margin with 74 percent of the total number of votes counted.

DeSantis, who signed Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law earlier this year, narrowly defeated Democrat Andrew Gilliam in 2018. DeSantis, who is a former congressman, is expected to run for president in 2024.

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Florida

Fla. rule would effectively ban gender-affirming care for minors

State surgeon general asked for regulation

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The Florida state Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. The Florida Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine Joint Rules/Legislative Committee has advanced a rule that would effectively ban gender-affirming care for minors in the state. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)

The Florida Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine Joint Rules/Legislative Committee Friday advanced a rule that would effectively ban gender-affirming care for minors in the state. 

The policy, which would likely block a minor’s access to puberty blockers, hormone therapies and surgeries — a rare intervention for transgender youth — will now head to the full the Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathy for finalization and a vote. 

It came after the Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo in June asked the board to establish a standard for “complex and irreversible” gender-affirming care treatments. Ladapo recommended against certain pharmaceutical, non-pharmaceutical and surgical treatments for gender dysphoria. Puberty blockers, a form of gender-affirming care, are reversible.

Major medical organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend gender-affirming care for trans and nonbinary youth. The group, in a statement, said it “strongly oppose[s] any legislation or regulation that would discriminate against gender-diverse individuals, including children and adolescents, or limit access to comprehensive evidence-based care which includes the provision of gender-affirming care.”

Still, Ladapo called the scientific evidence supporting gender-affirming care “extraordinarily weak.”

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is likely to run for president in 2024, holds tremendous power over the board. Equality Florida, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group, said the board was stacked with “right-wing extremists” and “subverted into weapons against LGBTQ Floridians.”

During the meeting, the committee heard from scheduled presenters meant to act as experts on gender-affirming care and members of the public. Before the meeting, one of the experts, Dr. James Cantor, was quietly removed from the agenda after it was revealed that he advocated for pedophiles to be included under the LGBTQ umbrella, according to Media Matters

Oxford University sociology professor Michael Biggs, who did speak to the board, has posted transphobic tweets in the past, according to the Oxford Student, the college’s student newspaper. 

LGBTQ activists and state representatives called into question the fairness of the speakers. According to Florida Planned Parenthood Action, two state representatives, Democrats Anna Eskamani and Carlos Smith, “begged” the board to let public comment continue. 

“It is totally unacceptable for a public Board to permit only speakers who agree with the board members’ position to testify, and then refuse to permit others from the public with a different perspective to speak,” tweeted Florida state Rep. Ben Diamond, a Democrat. 

After the board cut off public comment, the crowd began to chant: “Let them speak.”

Smith called the meeting a “sham,” adding: “They put all the speakers from out of state and out of the country who agreed with them first. When they ran out of people on their side, they cut off public comment from Floridians OPPOSED to the politicization of gender affirming care.”

“Just disgusting,” tweeted Jack Petocz, a political strategist for Gen-Z for Change.

The board also heard from several so-called “detransitioners” who spoke in favor of the rule. 

However, those who receive gender-affirming care rarely decide not to continue with treatment. A recent study published in “The Lancet” found that 98 percent of people who had started gender-affirming medical treatment in adolescence continued to use gender-affirming hormones at follow-up.

“It needs to be repeated without end: gender-affirming care is lifesaving care,” said Equality Florida Transgender Equality Director Nikole Parker.

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Fla. Department of Education approves new anti-LGBTQ rules

Governor earlier this year signed state’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

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(Photo courtesy of Equality Florida)

As school districts across the state and particularly in Southwest Florida struggle to reopen after the massive damage inflicted by Hurricane Ian, the deadliest hurricane to strike the state of Florida since the 1935 Labor Day storm, the Florida Department of Education voted unanimously Wednesday on new rules designed to intimidate school districts and teachers that affirm LGBTQ students.

Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, noted that the Florida Department of Education with these new rules has expanded the enforcement of House Bill 1557, the “Don’t Say LGBTQ” law. One rule passed Wednesday threatens teachers with termination of both their job and education certificate if they are found to have engaged in “classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“The Board of Education’s move to target individual teachers’ jobs and licenses is another cruel attack from an administration that has spent months punching down at Florida’s LGBTQ youth and families,” said Equality Florida Senior Political Director Joe Saunders. “Qualified, effective teachers are fleeing the profession in Florida thanks to the constant politicization of their roles and discrediting of their characters by the DeSantis administration. Rather than help to clarify the ‘Don’t Say LGBTQ’ law’s scope, the Board of Education has taken this bigoted law to yet another extreme, threatening teachers if they dare to acknowledge LGBTQ families in the classroom. This escalation in deference to the far right agenda of the governor makes our schools less inclusive — and less safe.”

Nearly 100 LGBTQ advocates attended the Board of Education meeting today in Orlando, and more than 1,000 people sent messages to board members in support of teachers, families and LGBTQ students.

Another rule passed Wednesday targets school districts with policies that allow transgender students safe access to bathrooms and locker rooms. While not denying those facilities to transgender and nonbinary students, the new rule requires school districts notify parents in the district if they have a policy allowing bathrooms or locker rooms to be separated on a basis “other than biological sex at birth.”

“The Board of Education’s facilities separation rule does not and cannot prevent transgender students from accessing facilities aligned with their gender identity — we know Federal law and the constitution protect these rights. Florida school districts have been following federal law for more than a decade, establishing policies we know will continue to work long after this politically-motivated proposed rule. What it does do is attempt to bully and intimidate districts that are providing these accommodations. Ron DeSantis’ war on transgender Floridians must end. All students deserve access to school facilities that are inclusive and safe,” added Saunders.

Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, a former state senator who sponsored the “Don’t Say Gay/LGBTQ” law, has been leading the efforts against Florida’s LGBTQ students.

In July he issued a memo instructing school districts to ignore Title IX nondiscrimination protections for trans students, threatening costly penalties even though federal law and case law require accommodations for trans youth.

LGBTQ-inclusive school district policies are still supported by federal protections that exist to provide safe, welcoming spaces for all students. The Biden administration has issued guidance instructing schools to comply with Title IX protections against discrimination on the basis of sex, which is inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity.

School districts must continue supporting LGBTQ students, creating safe, inclusive environments, and implementing the bigoted “Don’t Say LGBTQ” law as narrowly as possible to mitigate the harms it is inflicting on students and families.

 

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