Florida's Department of Education issued a memo to all school districts in late July explaining that they were not required to comply with the Biden administration's proposed changes to and interpretations of Title IX and Title VII. Those changes would require schools that receive federal funding to allow boys and girls access to opposite sex bathrooms if they identify that way. Under Biden's Title VII interpretation, funding would be withheld from lunch programs that do not comply.
The local teachers union, however, backed by the National Education Association which donated heavily to the Biden campaign, then issued their own contradictory guidance in a memo obtained by The Post Millennial. In so doing, they indicated that the "guidance" issued by the Biden administration had actually been enacted as federal law, which it has not been.
"I am concerned about the safety of our children in Clay County," said Tanya Kacsan of Moms for Liberty to The Post Millennial. "I am also concerned that the union is providing inaccurate information to teachers that does not align with guidance sent by Manny Diaz, Commissioner of Education."
Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz said that the guidance from the Biden administration "interpret discrimination on the basis of sex to include discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity," which was done based on a Supreme Court ruling which found that an employer could not tell a biological male employee he could not wear a dress to work because that would be discrimination on the basis of sex.
"This guidance attempts to vastly expand the application of Title IX and related statues and regulations," Diaz wrote, and it does so, he told schools, without consulting Florida agencies that specifically have issued guidance against that expansion.
Diaz wanted to make clear to school that the "guidance" issued by the federal education and agriculture agencies "are not binding law, do not create any new legal obligations, and should not be treated as governing law." That guidance, Diaz told schools, has even been acknowledged by the USDOE as under litigation, representing the administration's "interpretation" of Title IX and Title VII.
"As such," Diaz cautions, "you should not treat the USDOE or USDA guidance documents as binding or otherwise modify your practices or procedures based on these documents.
"Specifically," he goes on, "for example, nothing in these guidance documents requires you to give biological males who identify as female access to female bathrooms, locker rooms, or dorms; to assign biological males who identify as female to female rooms on school field trips' or to allow biological males who identify as female to compete on female sports teams."
He specifies further that schools should NOT follow the guidance, because to do these things would "jeopardize the safety and wellbeing of Florida students and risk violating Florida law."
"For the same reason," Diaz writes, "you should also disregard any suggestions from FDACS that you must company with the USDOE or USDA guidance, including any suggestion to post 'And Justice For All' posters in your schools, as doing so many create a conflict with Florida law."
Yet, the Clay County Education Association has their own plans as to how to bypass local law and do, instead, what the interpreted guidance from the Biden administration suggests. They sent out their own memo to teachers and educators, explaining to them that they should do as the Biden administration recommends, and ignore Florida law.
In a memo titled "Parental Bill of Rights aka Don’t Say Gay Law," the union states that: "certain politicians are attacking LGBTQ students and staff to divide communities and to divert attention away from Florida being near the bottom in the nation in school funding and educator salaries. But we will not lose focus on making sure that every student feels safe, welcome, respected, and loved while at school — no matter their race, income, ZIP code, sexual orientation or gender identify. Together, we will make sure that every student in Florida attends a school that is worthy of them."
"The law," the union complains of the Parental Rights in Education Bill, "was intentionally written to be confusing and vague. School districts have received little to no guidance on how to implement the law." This despite Diaz's guidance.
The union said, "The state of Florida’s most comprehensive response so far to concerns about the law’s implementation was issued in response to a lawsuit against the bill, but official rules and guidance have yet to be provided. In short, from what we know right now, you can continue with the same practices and procedures you used last year unless given a directive to do otherwise."
This is in direct contradiction to what Diaz told schools, and because it's coming from the union, another educational governing body, it is likely that teachers and educators could find the contradictions confusing.
"That being said," the union tells members, "you should follow any directive given to you by an administrator. You should also reach out to your local union if you believe a directive you have been given is unjust. Your local union will review the complaint and determine a suggested course of action."
And the union then indicates which party they believe teachers should vote for in state-wide elections. "The best way to change these policies is to vote for politicians who will uphold our values and are committed to protecting all of Florida’s students and educators."
"You and your students are protected under federal law," the union tells teachers.
"Federal law trumps state law," they write, without saying that the Biden administration's guidance is merely that, based on their interpretation of Title VII and Title IX, and not federal law.
"As such," they continue, "public school employees are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII), which prohibits discrimination against employees based on numerous characteristics, including sex, inclusive of gender identity and sexual orientation." In this statement, the union adopts the Biden administration's guidance and language outright.
The union uses the Biden administration's interpretation of Title IX to give guidance as well, which is directly in contradiction to Diaz's memo from the Florida Department of Education.
"Title IX," the union states, "also protects students from harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and protects students and educators from retaliation for complaining about such discrimination or harassment. That means schools cannot discriminate against students by, for example, prohibiting access to extracurricular activities, school sports, bathrooms and applying dress codes consistent with a student’s gender identity."
The union then gives recommendations as to how to workaround the Parental Rights in Education bill, saying:
"Use only materials for instructional and educational purposes that have prior approval through state standards or the school administrator. Having material previously approved by the district or school puts the member in a better position.
"Nothing in the law prohibits the display of Pride flags, stickers, or any other LGBTQ+ symbols. If you receive a directive from an administrator to remove any inclusive symbols from a classroom, ask for the directive to be put in writing, follow the directive, and contact your local union immediately. We will have your back. Anti-bullying efforts have long been critical to our work as a union, and we will not back down when it comes to making sure every student feels seen, heard, and respected on their school campuses," it reads.
"Making your voice heard," the union writes, "If you are engaging in protest activity, do so outside the classroom and school and, preferably, with one or more of your union colleagues. Acting with other colleagues provides an additional level of protection, as you are engaging in a union-organized activity.
"While students may engage in student-led and organized walkouts and protest movements at school, school employees should not use their position in school to participate in, encourage or discourage student activism."
The union also looks to help teachers fend off parents who may issue concerns about gender identity indoctrination in their classrooms, saying that the law is very specific as regards parent complaints.
"One aspect of the law that didn’t generate as much media coverage is that now schools must adopt a complaint procedure through which parents may raise 'concerns' with the principal or principal’s designee regarding student welfare," they write, discussing the timelines of the complaint process.
"If your administrator notifies you that you are the subject of a parent complaint, contact your union representative right away. Because of the strict timeframes laid out in the law, your administrator may try to force you to meet without your union representative, but it is essential that you enforce your Weingarten rights," the union states.
"The Department," Diaz said, "will not stand idly by as federal agencies attempt to impose a sexual ideology on Florida schools that risk the health, safety, and welfare of Florida students. Working with the State Board of Education, the Department will continue to develop rules to implement and uphold Florida law. The Department will do everything in its power to protect the wellbeing of all Florida students and to vindicate the right of all parents to know what takes place in their child's classroom."
Title IX was passed in 1972 under the Civil Rights Act to engender equality between men's and women's education to specifically "prohibit[s] discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs and activities that receive or benefit from Federal financial assistance," has been amended by the Biden administration, through an executive order requiring the conflation of gender identity and biological sex across all federal agencies, to cover discrimination on the basis of "pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity."
The Department of Education has proposed further changes as well, which "would make clear that preventing someone from participating in school programs and activities consistent with their gender identity would cause harm in violation of Title IX."
Florida has been vocal in opposing gender identity indoctrination in schools, from Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo issuing health guidance against the medical gender transition of children, to the recent prohibition on Medicaid funding medical gender transition of any age.
Under the Parental Rights in Education bill, which was passed this year and signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis, school districts and teachers are not allowed to teach gender identity to elementary school children, or keep secrets about children's mental from their parents.
Florida also passed a bill to protect girls' sports from incursion from biological males who want to participate on the basis of identifying as transgender, and has been the location of contentious fights over bathroom access. In February, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a school was in violation of the constitution when refusing to allow a biological girl who identifies as transgender to use male designated bathrooms.
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