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Florida Board of Education approves new rules on books, school bathrooms

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The State Board of Education met Wednesday to approve how new Florida policies will be executed moving forward. They took action on a laundry list of policies that were passed this past legislative session, voting on new rules to make sure they follow the law as it’s written.

The changes apply to private K-12 schools and colleges with universties governed by a different agency. In July, the board approved these changes for K-12 public schools.

Education

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The board unanimously adopted two items. Both have to do with parents being able to request a Special Magistrate if they do not agree with a local School Board’s decision.

This is for decisions made by a school board regarding classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity or materials like books being used in class or a library.

Parents can fill out a form to request a magistrate.

The department said the changes ensure parental rights are protected. However, dozens of parents said they don’t agree.

Angelie Vazquez, a mother in Collier County, shared, “I don’t feel like my rights as a parent are being protected in the slightest. If anything, I feel like they are being eroded, and there are more obstacles between myself and my child’s education.”

Ronnie Gallagher, another speaker, “To me, books aren’t about grooming. They are about learning and about the world, the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

The board tried to appease parents, telling them the rule wasn’t about being for or against anything.

“This right here, this special magistrate process, and what would come before this board would be, did that school board follow the policy, or are they lacking a policy they are required to have by law?” explained Board Member Ben Gibson.

Another item unanimously approved was a change to the rule that prohibits someone from willfully entering a restroom or changing an area of the opposite sex, specifically in Florida’s colleges and universities.

The move requires institutions to report that they have met the requirements necessary and have instituted disciplinary actions for students or staff who do not use the restroom aligned with their biological sex at birth.

That includes potentially firing staff if they don’t abide.

A parent of a transgender student thinks it’s unfair, “The proposed rule is an attack on the basic dignity of transgender students, faculty, and staff, and I oppose this rule. I would also like to point out that there is not a unisex restroom in this entire, very public school building to use at this time.”

But other parents thought it was necessary, “I have to thank you for this proposed rule. This proposed rule helps to create a safer learning environment for all faculty, staff, and students, not just the loudest few.”

A similar action passed to do the same in Private K through 12 schools.

The last big-ticket item is in line with Senate Bill 846, which limits education institutions from entering into grants and gifts with a foreign country of concern.

This new rule specifies the reporting process for institutions. It passed unanimously.