State Board of Education adopts rules on bathrooms, preferred pronouns, topics not taught until ninth grade

Changes mirrors laws signed earlier this year
Posted at 7:01 PM, Jul 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-19 23:11:55-04

ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida's public schools are getting new rules on bathrooms, use of preferred pronouns and topics that can't be taught until ninth grade.

In Orlando on Wednesday, Florida's State Board of Education approved the changes, bringing districts in line with new controversial laws passed this year.


Here's a breakdown of several of them:

Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession in Florida

Under threat of penalty, the rule requires educators to comply with the legislature's recent expansion of the "Parental Rights in Education" law or what critics have labeled the "Don't Say Gay" bill. It prohibits instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation through eighth grade and limits preferred pronouns.

Supporters have hailed the changes as refocusing schools on education. Critics have said they are vague and will harm or silence already marginalized LGBTQ+ students and teachers.

Designation of Restrooms and Changing Facilities in K-12 Educational Institutions

Florida's K-12 schools are among the publicly-owned spaces that must comply with the state's new bathroom restrictions, called the Safety in Private Spaces Act. The new rule requires schools to limit bathrooms and changing facilities to biological sex at birth or offer a unisex option.

Schools will need to come into compliance by April 1 of next year. District officials are required to sign a form certifying compliance.

During public comment, those supportive of the bathroom restrictions considered them "common sense" and said they would help protect young women from predators. Opponents felt the fears were a nonissue and urged the BOE to focus on what they considered more pressing matters like school safety.

School-Sponsored Events and Activities

Restrictions on "adult live performances" from this year’s legislative session are coming to school-sponsored events. The rule would use the new law's standards and definitions to prohibit the admission of a child to “adult live performances” or the use of a district facility for such an event.

Critics of the changes consider them too vague and said they’ll chill events for the LGBTQ+ community, including drag shows. Supporters say the policy is to "protect the innocence of children" and keep them from exposure to lewd material.

The new rule also requires parental notification and permission slips for school-sponsored events and activities. They must include:

1. The nature of the event or activity.

2. The date(s) and time(s) of the event or activity.

3. Specific location(s) and type(s) of sponsors/guests at the event or activity.

4. Method of student supervision provided, such as anticipated number of chaperones.

Following the meeting's conclusion, the state and critics fired off competing press releases. Florida’s Department of Education said changes will ensure kids can safely be kids in school. LGBTQ+ advocates, meanwhile, alleged the rules were the governor’s latest effort to bolster his image in Republican circles as he runs for the White House.

With approval from the board, many of the changes will start in the coming academic year.