WELLINGTON, FLORIDA — In the state’s first lawsuit since the Parental Rights in Education law went into effect, concerned parent Dr. Frank Deliu sued the Palm Beach County School District. The suit names Emerald Cove Middle School, the Palm Beach County School Police Department, and several teachers as additional defendants.
When Dr. Frank Deliu’s son came home from computer science class in mid-September and told his father that his teacher hung a gay pride flag in the classroom, Deliu was livid. “She posted two flags in her classroom,” he told The Florida Standard.
When students asked the teacher why she hung the flags “she began to explain the gay lifestyle to the students and provided websites for students to research the topic further,” Deliu said. However, when Deliu complained, the school principal ignored him but eventually allowed his son to switch to another elective class.
According to the lawsuit, “Dr. Deliu and his son are both born, baptized, and practicing Orthodox Christians. Their religion considers homosexuality a sin. Their sincere and genuine beliefs are that homosexuality is not in accordance with the teachings in their God’s Bible, that they are morally obliged to follow.”
After the first complaint, Deliu’s son informed him that his civics teacher posted a gay pride flag in the classroom and began to invite the students to a local gay pride event. “The flags are not the main problem,” Deliu said. “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.”
Shortly after filing the lawsuit, Deliu scheduled an appointment on October 20 at the school to speak to a guidance counselor. “My intention was, at a minimum, to get my son moved out of the civics class,” Deliu said.
But upon arriving at the school, a school police vehicle was parked at the front entrance with the lights flashing. “I rang the bell at the front door and told them I was there for my appointment. So I waited outside the door,” Deliu said. Patrick Gaines, a school district police officer, approached Deliu as he waited outside. “I was there for an appointment, and the police officer began to harass me,” Deliu said. “He told me that the meeting that I scheduled would not be happening. He then continued to stand over me and try to intimidate me,” Deliu said.
Deliu, who recorded the interaction with the officer, said that Gaines became aggressive and told him that he needed to “get off his campus.” According to Deliu, the officer pushed him to force him off the school campus. As Deliu stood there recording, he reminded the officer that the school property was publicly funded, and he had a legitimate reason for being on campus. In fact, Deliu’s son was inside the school at the time of the incident.
The school district police website states that “discriminatory enforcement practices can alienate our community and students, foster distrust of the police, invite media scrutiny, prompt legislative action, and judicial intervention, and potentially lead to allegations of Constitutional and civil rights violations.” School Police Chief Sarah Mooney told The Florida Standard that she had not been notified of the incident as of October 31.
LAWMAKERS ADD TEETH TO PARENTS’ BILL OF RIGHTS
After passing the Parents’ Bill of Rights in 2021, Florida lawmakers found that school districts were finding ways to get around the new law. State Rep. Joe Harding, who sponsored this year’s Parental Rights in Education bill, told The Florida Standard that parents were providing evidence that the school districts were skirting the law.
“There were these resource guides out there on how to talk to children about their pronouns, and how to conceal conversations from parents,” Harding told The Florida Standard. The first guide Harding reviewed was from Palm Beach County, the district named in Deliu’s lawsuit. Portions of the guide are marked as “under review due to new Florida rule.”
“We had the Parents’ Bill of Rights the year before, but one of the issues that still existed was there wasn’t a clear enforcement piece for the parent to hold the school district accountable. We put the parent back in the driver’s seat with the new bill, passed this July.”
Deliu says he offered the school an option to remove the flags and issue a formal apology. Still, at a meeting yesterday with the school, Deliu noted that the administration only gave him ten minutes to speak, then immediately decided to ignore his complaint.
“I am looking to withdraw my son as it is obvious they are only interested in advancing their homosexual agenda and are covering for the teacher’s illegal actions,” Deliu told The Florida Standard.
The Palm Beach County School District told The Florida Standard that they are not able to comment on pending litigation.
Read the lawsuit below: