Florida schools announce plan to out LGBTQ+ students in line with Don’t Say Gay law

In this photograph, Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference

Sarasota County teachers in west-central Florida must now out their students if they come out as LGBTQ+ to them under new guidance.

The district released new guidance ahead of this school year to align with the state’s Parental Rights in Education bill, known to critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Pupils must now have their parents’ or guardians’ permission to use a different name and pronouns at school, according to a memo sent to teachers and administrators, per Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Students will have to request the change to school staff, who will then notify administrators and school counsellors. When the young person’s parent or guardian gives consent, they must have a meeting with their family, school counsellor and administrator to complete a “Gender Support Plan”.

If they don’t receive permission, the young person will have to be deadnamed and misgendered by staff.

“If a student tells us that (they) are gay/gender questioning/trans, etc, parent must be notified,” the guidance says.

Sarasota County includes 62 schools with more than 42,000 students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The new policy is a dizzying shift from the country’s previous view on LGBTQ+ pupils, where schools left it “up to the student, and the student alone, to share her/his/their identity”.

Board members did not vote for the 2018 policy to be scrapped. Instead, district officials say the change was done to comply with the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill and will be under review for several months.

Protestors in front of Florida State Senator Ileana Garcia's office after the passage of the Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill by LGBTQ activists.

Protestors in front of Florida State Senator Ileana Garcia’s office after the passage of the Parental Rights in Education bill. (Joe Raedle/Getty)

But School Board members are divided about the new policy.

“The change is a win for parents, students, teachers and allows for the integrity of our public education institutions to be restored,” Sarasota school board member Bridget Ziegler told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Ziegler advised that outed students who feel unsafe seek help from district officials that report to the Florida Department of Children and Families.

School Board officials clashed on the new guidelines during a 10 August workshop, with one expressing unease at what little protections schools will now offer queer students.

School Board chair Jane Goodwin said she opposes the new policy.

“We’re at a precipice in not being able to support students as we have done in the past, which I thought was done in a good way, in a kind way, in a thoughtful way, in a way that protected students and kept them safe,” she said in a statement.

Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 1557 on 28 March. The legislation bans public schools from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten through third grade, or through the 12th grade if deemed “age-appropriate” by parents and guardians.

The backlash was swift. The White HouseDisneyHollywood celebrities and countless LGBTQ+ campaign groups called out the bill for robbing queer children of their childhoods.

Critics have expressed fears about the vagueness of the bill’s wording, given the state has not issued standards on what exactly is “age-appropriate”.

Since silencing classrooms, Florida has already found a new target, In just days, a ban on trans Floridians using Medicaid, a public health insurance programme for low-income people, to obtain gender-affirming healthcare will come into force.