'I'm tired of foolishness,' Palm Beach County teacher says of new education laws

State takes aim at sexual orientation instruction, personal pronouns, bathroom use
Santaluces Community High School teacher Michael Woods speaks to WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind on July 20, 2023.PNG
Posted at 9:08 PM, Jul 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-20 21:08:56-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — State education leaders call it enhancing student safety and welfare. But activists say it's more solutions looking for problems.

The Florida Board of Education on Wednesday approved new rules to bolster controversial state laws that cover everything from using personal pronouns and bathrooms in school.

With just three weeks until school starts, Florida school districts have new laws to comply with and new rules to follow.


"I'm 30 years in, going to 31, and I'm not tired. I'm tired of foolishness that has nothing to do with education, and I'm tired of us making decisions or making spaces that are not the best for kids," said Santaluces Community High School teacher Michael Woods.

Woods feels an obligation to speak out against laws he feels could negatively impact the LGBTQ+ community. And so did dozens of others on Wednesday. Hours of public comment led up to the Florida Board of Education approving several new rules to support controversial new education laws.

There's a ban on instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity until high school. Parents must give permission for their child to be called something other than their legal name. And schools must limit bathrooms to biological sex at birth or have a unisex bathroom.

"You know what our biggest problems in bathrooms are? Vaping. Kids vaping and doing things in bathrooms that are a statewide and nationwide issue. So why don't we focus on that issue?" Woods said.

Another rule prevents teachers from using or asking students for preferred pronouns.

Woods said these laws don't address the real issues facing education, like teacher shortages and academics, and are moving the state backwards.

"If you are more worried about me using pronouns or a name a student asked me to call them, then you really don't know me as an amazing educator. And you need to keep people like me and others in the classroom and not make our jobs harder with things that have nothing to do with education," Woods said.

Still, many people support the changes.

"When teachers report to work, they need to leave their personal beliefs and their opinions at the door and assume the full responsibility of the job they signed up for," a parent said Wednesday during the Florida Board of Education meeting.

Florida education commissioner Manny Diaz said the laws are protecting students.

"This is common sense. Making sure that parents are involved in the upbringing and development of their child. Again, these kids do not belong to the government. They belong to their parents," Diaz said.

"How do you think this will impact you directly in your classroom?" WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind asked Woods.

"I have a lot of questions still," Woods answered.

The longtime educator hopes for more answers before school begins on Aug. 10.