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School district approves guidelines to out trans students to classmates’ parents

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A Florida school board unanimously approved a new set of guidelines that critics say would allow school officials to out trans and non-binary students to the parents of their classmates.

The Leon County School Board’s recently adopted “LGBTQ Inclusive School Guide” is intended to provide guidance for teachers and administrators to help queer students. But the document contains a provision requiring the school to notify parents if a student who is “open about their gender identity” is in a physical education class or will be present on an overnight trip.

Related: Florida teachers told to hide their same-sex spouses due to “Don’t Say Gay” law

While the guide notes that all students must be allowed to access locker rooms and restrooms consistent with their gender identity, the provision is meant to allow the parents of other students to request “reasonable accommodation options” for their cisgender children.

“The notification to all the parents can create a very stressful and unwanted situation to trans and LGBTQ students,” said Leon High School student Kailey Sandell.

“Sending out a parent notification could be seen as placing a target on a student’s back,” said Tallahassee resident Lauren Kelly-Manders.

“Trans kids want privacy,” Benjamin Burn, another Leon High student said. “That’s what I want, that’s what everyone wants. And trans kids honestly deserve it.”

Other critics claimed the guide does not go far enough in protecting parental rights regarding their children’s exposure to LGBTQ issues and people. Sharyn Kerwin, head of the Leon County chapter of far-right organization Moms for Liberty and a member of the district’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee, claimed that “any attempt to withhold information from a parent or try to influence a child in a knowing way is against Florida law.”

Kerwin was likely referring to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, which bans instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in a manner that is not “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students” and prohibits schools from restricting parental access to their student’s education and health records. Popularly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, the bill was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in March and was one of several new anti-LGBTQ laws that took effect on July 1.

The Leon County School Board’s previous LGBTQ guide was pulled last summer after a lawsuit filed on behalf on a Tallahassee couple alleged that the school violated their parental rights by discussing gender identity with their child without their permission.

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, the school board called the new guidelines a “living document” that can be updated. The board intends to revisit the guidelines in six months.

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