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Duval Schools still out of compliance with new state laws

Duval County Public Schools previously rebranded its All In for Safe Schools program away from explicit support for LGBTQ+ students.
Duval County Public Schools
Families gather before a Duval School Board meeting in June to protest the district's slashing of its former LGBTQ+ Support Guide.

The Florida State Board of Education says Duval Schools is one of 11 districts not complying with new state laws, including the Parental Rights in Education law that critics call "Don’t Say Gay."

That conclusion comes even though the district has already taken down itsLGBTQ+ Support guide; directed teachers to removeAll-In- for-Safe-Schools signs from their classrooms; rebranded certain student-support resources so they are no longer tailored for queer and transgender students; and temporarily discontinued supplemental sex ed materials in all grade levels.

The Florida Department of Education said that it surveyed 31 school districts for compliance with the new state laws. According to education senior chancellor Jacob Oliva, five districts had not updated their policies and six districts — including Duval — had updated policies that are still out of compliance.

Oliva expects Duval and the 10 other noncompliant districts to change their policies in the next two months.

"We're going to continue to follow up with those districts," Oliva said. "I would like to think by the start of 2023 that these districts that have to update their policies and procedures will be able to do that."

As of Oct. 24, however, Duval Schools said it had still not received "any direct communication from the Florida Department of Education on this topic." The Education Department did not immediately respond to a request from WJCT News about how it believes Duval Schools is out of compliance.

The survey results were announced during a two-day Florida Board of Education meeting during which the board unanimously passed sweeping new policies for how they expect school districts to implement new state laws.

One of the changes requires districts to send letters to students’ homes if there are restrooms and locker rooms on campus that aren’t strictly “separated by biological sex at birth.”

In response to the change, LGBTQ+ rights organization Equality Florida — which is also suing the state over the Parental Rights in Education law — emphasized students’ federal right to use facilities that align with their asserted gender identity.

“The Board of Education’s facilities separation rule does not and cannot prevent transgender students from accessing facilities aligned with their gender identity — we know Federal law and the Constitution protect these rights,” senior political director Joe Saunders said.

“What it does do is attempt to bully and intimidate districts that are providing these accommodations.”

The state board also signed off on a policy that states teachers can be fired or have their teaching certification revoked for teaching about gender identity or sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade classrooms.

The state law prohibited this teaching but did not provide a specific punishment as the new board of education policy does.

Duval Schools has stated repeatedly that it had no formal instruction on these topics in those grades before or since the law was passed.

Claire joined WJCT as a reporter in August 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. During her time in East Tennessee, her coverage of the COVID pandemic earned a Public Media Journalists’ Association award for investigative reporting. You can reach Claire at (904) 250-0926 or on Twitter @ClaireHeddles.