PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA — At a board meeting on Wednesday, the Palm Beach County School Board once again changed the district’s “equity statement” – a controversial policy implemented in 2021.
The move comes after Florida’s Department of Education sent a letter to the school district on November 18 advising the board that specific district policies, including their “equity statement,” no longer comply with Florida law.
Back in 2021, when the “equity statement” was drafted, it contained a controversial line stating that the district was “dismantling structures rooted in white advantage.” In May 2021, more than one hundred members of the public voiced their outrage. The school board voted 4–3 to remove the line from the statement.
“LGBTQ CRITICAL SUPPORT GUIDE”
In the letter, Jacob Oliva, Senior Chancellor at the state Department of Education, took aim at the district’s support guide for LGBTQ students. Oliva called out three sections in the 104-page support guide related to “transgender” and “nonbinary” students.
The sections explain students’ right to use a preferred pronoun or affirmed name. The guide also details a policy that permits students to participate in sports under their preferred gender identity and use a restroom or locker room that corresponds to their chosen identity.
But those policies are now at odds with Florida law, the chancellor said. The two laws cited are the Parents Bill of Rights, signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis in June 2021, and the Parental Rights in Education law, signed by the governor in March.
Under the new laws, school districts must notify families of any “change in the student’s services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being and the school's ability to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for the student.”
“This could, depending on the unique factual circumstances, include matters related to a student’s privacy, name and pronoun usage, and restroom and locker room usage,” Oliva said in the letter.
Additionally, the letter addressed a paragraph from the school district’s “equity statement,” which, according to the district, “addresses existing practices and procedures that have inhibited success for some students.”
Oliva also reminded the superintendent that parents now have legal standing to file lawsuits and collect damages if a school district violates Florida's new laws. “This list is not exhaustive,” Oliva wrote. “Your district should strive to review all its policies and procedures for other provisions that may not comport with Florida law,” the letter concluded.
In October, The Florida Standard reported on a lawsuit filed by a Wellington parent whose child was subjected to LGBTQ “indoctrination” in a Palm Beach County School. According to Frank Deliu’s lawsuit, his son’s teacher posted a gay pride flag in the classroom. When asked about the flag, the teacher invited the students to a local gay “pride” event.
“The flags are not the main problem,” Deliu tells The Florida Standard. “It’s the teachers talking about a homosexual lifestyle in class, and in my opinion, I think this is a way that they are trying to get around the legislation because they can say that the students asked them questions about the flags.”
SCHOOL BOARD MAKES REVISIONS
On Wednesday night, after nearly an hour of discussion, school board members voted unanimously to adopt a revised “equity statement,” which they hope will satisfy the state’s request.
“The School District of Palm Beach County is committed to creating safe, equitable, and inclusive learning environments that ensure students have what they need to be successful in life.
The School District of Palm Beach County will provide each student – regardless of race, ethnicity, economic status, disability, national origin, religious affiliation, gender identity, or sexual orientation – access to any and all opportunities, resources, and support they need to develop agency, voice, and achieve their dreams.
The School District of Palm Beach County will embrace, celebrate, and honor our students, families, staff, and community members and their unique cultural histories while ensuring each student achieves personal, academic, and sustainable success.”
Palm Beach County School board members said in the meeting that they plan to further review other policies and work to make necessary changes to its “LGBTQ+ Critical Support Guide” posted on its website.