During the Monday evening Leon County School Board (LCSB) agenda review, the Board discussed the pending changes to the LGBTQ+ guide.
Last year, the LCSB came under scrutiny for the LGBTQ+ guide following a lawsuit filed in October 2021. The case was filed after a 13-year-old LCS student’s parents were not informed of a support plan initiated by school staff members.
Tallahassee Reports has previously covered this matter.
Since the lawsuit was filed, LCS staff have worked to change the language and guidelines within the document to be compliant with Florida law, including the parent bill of rights.
“Parental rights are amongst our most venerated constitutionally protected rights and are critical to the integrity of our public school system of education,” said Mary McAlister, the attorney for the Littlejohn family who filed the lawsuit.
According to the discussion during the evening meeting, there have been many revisions to the document over several months. However, the Board members seemed most focused on how best to indicate a student’s formal name or informal name and when a teacher should reach out to a parent.
“We have to balance here,” Board member Rosanne Wood said. “It is important that we protect our kids, protect our teachers and administrators, and help the parents understand their rights.”
Regarding a student’s name, the current practice states the student’s parent must access the school portal and list the preferred name in the student’s account.
Wood and Board member DeeDee Rasmussen both agreed that the language of the newly edited guidelines should include consent for a nickname or informal name that may be used in the classroom setting.
The option for a nickname in the student’s record would prevent any backlash from parents and keep teachers from being rebuked. Likewise, the Board determined that a list of pronouns should be added to the portal for students and parents to select if they so choose.
Then, when the discussion shifted to communicating with a student’s parents, several Board members agreed that while the student’s safety is most important, a teacher’s discretion is best in these situations.
Superintendent Rocky Hanna commented that students will often confide in a teacher they feel comfortable with. He suggested that divulging a private conversation with a parent might break the student’s trust. However, if the student requests the teacher take action, or the teacher feels the student may be in danger, then the parents should be contacted directly.
Lastly, Board member Joy Bowen and Chair Darryl Jones suggested having the students and parents give feedback regarding the changes to the document. “It is vital to have student input in this document,” Jones said.