ANALYSIS: Florida Board of Education Adopts New Rules to Bolster Parental Rights

Three rules in particular have gained widespread attention as they prioritize parental rights and lay out consequences for teachers.
Mother Accompanies Student to School
Photo: pvproductions/Freepik

In a recent statewide review, the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) found 11 of the 31 districts with relevant policies currently have policies or procedures that appear to be contrary to state or federal law, namely the Parental Rights in Education Bill which took effect in Florida on July 1st of this year. To bring districts into compliance with the new law, the FLDOE voted on Wednesday in favor of a number of rules drafted to give clarity and guidance to districts on the law’s implementation.

Three rules in particular have gained widespread attention as they prioritize parental rights and lay out consequences for teachers who fail to adhere to the law.

In an effort to clarify principles of professional conduct in adherence to the law, the board voted in favor of Rule 6A-10.081, which states, “Florida educators shall comply with the following disciplinary principles. Violation of any of these principles shall subject the individual to revocation or suspension of the individual educator’s certificate, or the other penalties as provided by law.” Among the more controversial principles enumerated in the rule states that teachers, “Shall not intentionally provide classroom instruction to students in kindergarten through grade 3 on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Critics are concerned this rule places teachers in precarious situations if students initiate discussion on these sensitive topics during class. Many say this rule unfairly puts teachers at risk of losing their jobs in the midst of a teacher shortage. But the board maintains the rule is necessary to adhere to the Parental Rights in Education Bill, which prohibits instruction on these topics during class. Many Florida teachers have publicly communicated their unwillingness to comply with statutes under the Parental Rights in Education Bill, vowing to continue discussion of these topics with their students. This rule gives districts the responsibility and authority to revoke the contracts of those educators.

Arguably the most controversial of the measures is Rule 6A-10.086, requiring parental notification for districts allowing students to use restrooms, locker rooms, and/or dressing rooms of the opposite sex. The rule states, “If a school board or charter school governing board has a policy or procedure that allows for separation of bathrooms or locker rooms according to some criteria other than biological sex at birth, the policy or procedure must be posted on the district’s website or charter school’s website, and must be sent by mail to student residences to fully inform parents.” Policies must include methods of supervision and how those methods ensure student safety. They must also state which restrooms and locker rooms are not separated by biological sex. And accommodations must be made to ensure all students have access to a restroom and locker room separated by biological sex.

An ongoing discussion of policies allowing students to use the facilities of the opposite sex is based on Adams v St. John’s County, currently being tried in a federal appeals court. The state initially sided with Adams, a biological female student who sued the St. John’s County school district for not being able to use the boys restroom while attending Neese High School. If overturned, it will pave the way for the Florida Legislature to address policies allowing students to use these facilities.

In another effort to further ensure parental transparency, the board voted in favor of Rule 6A-7.0713, requiring schools to place every book in an elementary school’s media center and classroom libraries on school websites. The rule states, “The purpose of this rule is to provide school districts with the requirements for the format districts must use on elementary school websites in order to post, and permit searches of, materials maintained in elementary school library media centers and materials found on a required school or a grade-level reading list in an elementary school.” Postings must include material type, title and author for books and ebooks, name or title for periodicals and videos, and the title of any other material.

Critics of the rule have claimed that it extends the scope of the Parental Rights in Education Bill,  as it includes classroom libraries in the list of books required to be catalogued. Some say it unnecessarily encumbers teachers who are currently taking on extra duties due to teacher shortages. Despite these critiques, the board views the rule as another necessary measure to comply with Florida law and a vital step to ensure further transparency to parents regarding what their child is being taught and exposed to in Florida schools.

Matt Woodside
Matt Woodside is an educator, athletic director, and coach in Brevard County, Florida.

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