'Angry and disheartened': South Florida educators react to new LGBTQ rules for schools
Educators now risk losing their teaching license if they refer to students by preferred names or pronouns. They also run this risk if they use bathrooms, names or pronouns that don’t match their own sex assigned at birth.
South Florida educators are "angry and disheartened" about new restrictions that will affect LGBTQ students in the new school year, according to a teachers union leader.
The Florida Board of Education last week released new additions to their professional conduct guidelines for teachers as a result of legislation which became effective as of July 1 — including two aspects that could have severe consequences for staff.
Educators risk losing their teaching license if they refer to students by preferred names or pronouns. They also run this risk if they use bathrooms, names or pronouns that don’t match their own sex assigned at birth.
Teaching about gender identity or sexual orientation will also be out of bounds until after eighth grade.
Erica Orchard, a speech pathologist for the Palm Beach County School District, said these new rules could hinder the strong relationships teachers build with students.
“I feel like teachers were always sort of a safe place or a safe person to talk to,” she said. “Now they can’t really count on the teachers as being on their side.” She is concerned students won’t have someone who they can talk to about the issues they are going through, she said.
The new guidelines also affect students directly.
They can only use bathrooms corresponding with their assigned gender at birth. The Safety in Private Spaces Act requires schools to limit bathrooms and locker rooms in K-12 schools to biological sex at birth or offer a unisex option. Students also cannot use their preferred pronouns without permission from a parent or guardian
“They’re going to have even more trust issues,” said Anna Fusco, President of the Broward Teachers Union. “They're not going to know who to turn to and they might start turning to definitely the wrong person or the wrong group.”
She also said how these new rules are creating a moral dilemma for teachers.
“[Teachers] are angry and disheartened. They’re looking to get their time done without jeopardizing their career or their license,” she said. “They’ve got families to take care of but they don’t want to be a failure to the students that trust us and want us.”
The new school year begins in less than a month and many are waiting to see how these guidelines and rules will play out.
The new guidelines stem from House Bill 1069, passed in this year’s legislative session. It followed HB 1557 — the Parental Rights in Education Act, also known as ‘Don’t Say Gay’ — which since its passing 2022 has led to book bans and the restrictions of sexual orientation and gender identity discussions in classrooms.
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