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State official wants 'serious consequences' for letting transgender athlete play on Broward team

 Monarch High School students conduct a walkout on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 after the principal, James Cecil, and other staff members were removed from their positions pending an investigation. The reassignments occurred because a female transgender student had been playing volleyball at the school in Coconut Creek, Florida.
D.A. Varela
/
Miami Herald
Monarch High School students conduct a walkout on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 after the principal, James Cecil, and other staff members were removed from their positions pending an investigation. The reassignments occurred because a female transgender student had been playing volleyball at the school in Coconut Creek, Florida.

A Florida Department of Education spokesperson has said that allowing a transgender student to play on a girls' volleyball team in Broward County is against the law, and those responsible should face "serious consequences.”

Broward County school district officials are now facing scrutiny from the Florida Department of Education, after staff at Monarch High School allegedly allowed a transgender student to play on the girls’ volleyball team.

DOE Communications Director Cailey Myers has argued that allowing the student to join the girls’ team is in “direct violation of Florida law” and that those responsible should face “serious consequences.”

On Wednesday, for the second day in a row, students at the school in Coconut Creek walked out of class, according to reporting by the South Florida Sun Sentinel. That’s after Broward County Public Schools officials decided to reassign or suspend five staff members in connection to the incident.

Under a state law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2021, transgender girls — who are assigned male at birth — are prohibited from playing on “[a]thletic teams or sports designated for females, women, or girls.”

READ MORE: Students at Broward school stage walkout after staff removals over transgender athlete

The Monarch High volleyball player and her parents had challenged the state law in court back in June of 2021, when she was a 13-year-old heading into eighth grade.

According to legal filings in the case, from as early as three years old, the student, who is only identified by her initials, insisted on wearing the clothes and colors that girls wear.

She was diagnosed with gender dysphoria when she was seven and began going by a girl’s name in second grade.

Under the care of her doctors, she began taking puberty blockers at age 11, and two years later began taking estrogen.

Earlier this month, a federal judge in the case upheld the state law, finding that SB 1028's “sex-based classifications are substantially related to the State's important interest in promoting women's athletics.”

The student and her family have until Jan. 11, 2024 to appeal the ruling.

The situation at Monarch High has drawn extensive media coverage and national attention. Here are some key quotes that help provide context on the issue:

Broward Schools Superintendent Peter Licata

Asked on the first day of the 2023-2024 school year about the anxiety that many educators feel about the flurry of new state restrictions on what they can say and how they can teach, Licata said the district must “protect teachers at all costs.”

“We want to let teachers know — I’m going to block and tackle for them every day of the week,” Licata said. “We need them. We need to make sure that we’re protecting them and we’re letting them do what they do best.”

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday Nov. 28, Licata said that going forward, the district will ensure that “everyone is eligible for the sport they’re playing on all aspects — grade level, so forth and so on — that’s in accordance with state law as well as the [Florida High School Athletic Association].”

Florida Department of Education spokesperson Cailey Myers

“Under Governor DeSantis, boys will never be allowed to play girls’ sports. It’s that simple.”

Legal complaint filed on behalf of the Monarch High student

"She cannot imagine life without these experiences and feels it would be cruel to take this opportunity away from her."
Legal complaint filed on behalf of the Monarch High student


“The Florida legislation that is the subject of this complaint, SB 1028, would prevent [the student] from participating in the sports she loves and decimate her social network. It would bar her simply because of her transgender status from the girls’ school teams for which she has been training for years. It would force her to abandon the sports that mean so much to her.”

“[She] dreams of being on high school sports teams, whether it is in soccer or volleyball. She cannot imagine life without these experiences and feels it would be cruel to take this opportunity away from her.”

Safe Schools South Florida Executive Director Scott Galvin

“We urgently call upon Broward Schools to reconsider their approach to this matter. Any investigation or action taken should prioritize the well-being and privacy of the affected student."

"Safe Schools South Florida stands firmly against any form of discrimination or punitive action that targets inclusivity, especially when it involves vulnerable youth. We demand that, moving forward, Broward Schools handle such sensitive issues with the care and respect they deserve, ensuring a safe and nurturing environment for all students.”

Florida “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act”

“Athletic teams or sports designated for females, women, or girls may not be open to students of the male sex.”

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As a Tallahassee native, Kate Payne grew up listening to WFSU. She loves being part of a station that had such an impact on her. Kate is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts. With a background in documentary and narrative filmmaking, Kate has a broad range of multimedia experience. When she’s not working, you can find her rock climbing, cooking or hanging out with her cat.
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