In response to Florida’s new, critic-dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” law, Duval County Public Schools plans to slash the district’s decade-old 37-page LGBTQ+ Support Guide down to an 8-page section of a larger student support manual and strip out almost all sentences that explicitly protect transgender students’ rights.
Under the proposal, the district would also adopt a new parental notification policy that triggers an email to parents if there is a “qualifying change” in student services, including a student requesting to change their name or pronouns on class rosters. The planned changes were presented to the School Board during a workshop Tuesday.
According to district Chief of Staff Sonita Young, most of the information in the current, longer support guide (which outlines how to respond to a range of situations to ensure LGBTQ+ students are safe on school campuses) would be migrated to internal staff training documents, available by public records request only. The shorter, revised LGBTQ section of the new comprehensive student support manual would be posted publicly on the district’s website.
The full student support manual is still being drafted, but district attorneys presented a draft of the section pertaining to LGBTQ+ students during Tuesday’s meeting.
The former 37-page support guide was drafted in conjunction with local LGBTQ+ support groups after the district passed its equity policy in 2012. The new version was written by district legal counsel who were tasked with complying with new Florida laws, including the Parental Rights in Education law. According to district attorneys, the state’s Department of Education did not provide technical guidance, and Duval’s new draft document is the result of their own interpretation of the law.
Here are the 5 biggest changes under the plan:
- Unofficial records: The district plans to start notifying parents if a student requests to change their name or pronouns in unofficial records, including ID cards, class rosters, yearbooks and school newspapers. Currently, schools will update any of those documents if a student asks them to, without notifying parents.
Under the new plan, schools could only update those documents after notifying the students’ parents via email. The district could hold back this notification email if “a reasonably prudent person would believe that disclosure would result in abuse, abandonment, or neglect,” according to the draft guide.
- Dress code: Previously, the support guide stated, “Transgender students may wear clothing in accordance with their consistently asserted gender identity.” This remains true under the new proposed guide, though it would not be explicitly stated on the district’s website.
The draft of the updated support guide draft says, “The Student Code of Conduct is gender neutral. Therefore, schools are required to enforce the dress requirements contained in the Student Code of Conduct equally amongst all students, regardless of sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity.”
- Restrooms and locker rooms: The previous guide stated both that “Transgender students shall not be forced to use the restroom corresponding to their sex assigned at birth” and that “All students are allowed to access locker rooms and restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity, or be provided appropriate accommodations in collaboration with the District’s Office of Equity and Inclusion.”
The new guide does not provide a blanket protection against students’ being forced to use restrooms for their gender assigned at birth. Instead, the new guide says, “School administrators will develop a plan on a case-by-case basis that meets privacy concerns.”
- Overnight field trips: In Duval Schools’ previous support guide, transgender students’ federal rights under Title IX were explicitly laid out including that, “a school must allow transgender students to access housing consistent with their gender identity and may not require transgender students to stay in single-occupancy accommodations.”
The new, drafted support guide does not refer to students’ Title IX rights, which protect against gender-based discrimination. Instead, the drafted document uses the same sentence as it did for restrooms: “School administrators will develop a plan on a case-by-case basis that meets privacy concerns.” According to the district, staff will be trained on students’ federal rights.
- Anti-LGBTQ+ language: The current LGBTQ+ support guide includes multiple pages outlining how district staff should intercept anti-LGBTQ+ language, including slurs and biased language to queer and transgender youth, providing specific examples about how language that harms students should be addressed.
The new support guide does not discuss anti-LGBTQ+ language, slurs or bias. Instead it references a broad anti-bullying policy, “District officials must act on any complaint of discrimination, harassment, or bullying by a student (whether or not transgender) with the same diligence.”
District staff are planning to finalize their comprehensive student support guide, including the LGBTQ+ support section, by next month. Because the document is a school resource document, not official School Board policy, the board won’t be voting on it, according to a district spokesperson. The School Board will have to sign off on the new parental notification policy, ahead of Florida’s new Parental Rights in Education Law’s taking effect July 1.
See the draft of the new support guide below. The former LGBTQ+ support guide is available here.