A parent walks his child into orientation at R.V. Daniels Elementary School in Jacksonville on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023.A parent walks his child into orientation at R.V. Daniels Elementary School in Jacksonville on Friday, Aug. 11, 2023.

William may need a form for his teacher to call him Bill

Published on August 16, 2023 at 3:36 pm

Does a teacher need parental permission to call a student Bella instead of Isabella?

In Florida, that depends on the school district.

A new law (HB 1069) attempts to define gender and prohibit transgender students from using their preferred pronouns. If a transgender child would like to use a name that aligns with their gender identity, they must receive parental permission.

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Parents and guardians of cisgendered students who want their child to be referred to by an uncommon nickname will be required to complete a “parental deviation form.”

Northeast Florida’s three largest school districts — Duval, St. Johns and Clay — have taken differing approaches to complying with recently enacted state laws.

On Aug. 10, Duval County Public Schools encouraged its faculty to use the last names of students when calling on them in class in order to “avoid any issues with pronouns or first names which do not match the biological sex of the child at birth.”

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The district says parents whose children prefer nicknames need to fill out a form that provides the district with an approved name or nickname that can be used in class.

In a letter to parents last week, the district noted “if your child is William, but prefers Bill, we will need your consent to call him Bill.”

The St. Johns County School District has taken a different approach. Associate Superintendent Paul Abbatinozzi wrote an email to principals and assistant principals Aug. 11 noting the district will not require parents to complete a form “for requests such as Robert to Rob, Timothy to Tim etc.”

However, names or nicknames that are more involved than common shortenings would require the form to be completed.

Abbatinozzi’s letter noted that the district plans to communicate with its legal department to ensure it completely complies with state law.

A Clay County School District spokeswoman said the district is finalizing its consent form ahead of next week’s deadline. School districts have until Aug. 22 to develop a form that complies with the law.

The changes became necessary once the Florida Legislature passed HB 1069 last spring. The bill dictated that employees “may not provide to a student his or her preferred personal title or pronouns if such preferred personal title or pronouns do not correspond to his or her sex.”

The law indicated parents had the “fundamental right” about the upbringing and control of their children.

It passed along partisan lines in the Florida House and Florida Senate in May. It was neither vetoed, nor signed, by Gov. Ron DeSantis and went into law in July.

Under the state law, many of Florida’s most popular baby names of 2013 — including Isabella, Olivia, Jayden and Jacob — might need parental approval to use nicknames this academic year.


author image Reporter, Jacksonville Today Will Brown is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. He previously reported for the Jacksonville Business Journal. And before that, he spent more than a decade as a sports reporter at The St. Augustine Record, Victoria (Texas) Advocate and the Tallahassee Democrat. Reach him at will@jaxtoday.org.
author image Reporter, Jacksonville Today Will Brown is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. He previously reported for the Jacksonville Business Journal. And before that, he spent more than a decade as a sports reporter at The St. Augustine Record, Victoria (Texas) Advocate and the Tallahassee Democrat. Reach him at will@jaxtoday.org.