PASCO COUNTY, FLORIDA — In a Pasco County school board meeting on Monday, many activist-teachers voiced their concerns and objections against new school policy on removing LGBTQ+ “safe space” stickers and to refrain from having conversations with students regarding their sexual lives and preferences.
“I rise today in support of the safe space stickers. As an educator for 13 years, I believe that our schools should foster diversity, inclusion and acceptance. Safe space stickers are an infinitesimally small measure that let all of our children know that they are welcome in our classrooms. They are not symbols made to disenfranchise any group,” teacher Heather Adams told the school board.
Another teacher of almost 30 years, David Berger, agreed: “Being a gay educator, I’ve dealt with many students in my career who have, over the years, felt comfortable being in my classroom just because they couldn’t feel safe at home. They knew that if they went home, they had to be someone else. But at the moment the stickers became part of our classroom, things changed. Those students became more vibrant, they realized they had purpose, they realized they would be protected within the school.”
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But the superintendent of Pasco School District, Kurt S. Browning, rejected the pleas for the reinstatement of stickers and other sexual identity propaganda materials – as well as teachers having conversations about sexual preferences with students. He argued that this could lead to the school district being subject to countless cases of litigation from parents.
"The law says that there are no such things as safe spaces. Teachers are not permitted to have private, personal conversations with students any longer. I know that runs counter to many of us. But the people you need to be talking to are the members of the Florida legislature. You need to speak to the governor of the state. For anyone to think that this district can pick and choose what laws we are going to enforce and what laws we are not going to enforce, that isn’t the way it works – whether you agree or disagree, the law is the law until it’s overturned by the legislature or a court with competent jurisdiction,” Browning said.
Superintendent Browning also assured the district that regardless of sticker policies, sexual identity or any individual factors, he will guarantee that each and every student in the district can thrive in a safe learning environment.