May 19, 2022 — This week, Duval County Public Schools staff and attorneys presented to the school board a draft of new procedures that are required under the new parental rights legislation. They also discussed how these required procedures impact guidance to staff for supporting students, including LGBTQ+ students.
The presentation on Tuesday, May 17, was typical of how the administration informs the school board of steps it is taking to comply with new state laws following each year’s legislative session.
Compliance with the new law (Florida Statute 1001.42) requires procedures for parental notification of any change in a student’s support services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being and the school’s ability to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for the student (referred to here as a qualifying change).
What the draft procedures do
Currently still in draft form, the new procedures state that the district will first email parents or legal guardians if there is such a change in support services or monitoring and the school’s ability to provide a safe and supportive environment for the students. If no email is on file, the district will send written notification to the address associated with the student.
Under the law, district personnel may withhold parent notification if a “reasonably prudent person would believe that disclosure would result in abuse, abandonment, or neglect” as those terms are defined in state law.
The draft procedure also expresses the steps a parent can take if they have concerns regarding the notification process or their student’s welfare.
Impact of new state law and new district procedure
Students remain free to share their sexual orientation or gender identity with school or district staff. Consistent with current practice and the new law, school personnel will encourage students to discuss these topics with their parents and work to facilitate those discussions.
With the new law, school personnel are required to notify parents only if the dialog with the student results in a qualifying change (a change to the student’s support services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being and the school’s ability to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for the student) unless the provision for reasonable expectation of abuse, abandonment, or neglect applies.
LGBTQ+ guide to be included in new, broader student support guide
The new procedures and other practices for supporting LGBTQ+ students will be expressed in a new, more comprehensive student support guide for school and district staff. The new guide will compile other student support guidance—such as guidance for students with disabilities or with mental health challenges—into a single document.
That comprehensive guide will include a section focusing on LGBTQ+ student support. With respect to gender identity, sexual orientation, or gender expression situations with students, school staff are advised to:
- Offer support, but not to assume the student needs help
- Be a role model of acceptance
- Appreciate the student’s courage
- Listen, listen, listen
- Be prepared to help if a student needs it and provide an appropriate referral.
If a student requests a change in their preferred name or pronouns, parent notification will be required, and school personnel will use the name and pronouns corresponding to that request. Unofficial documents such as class rolls (not official documents such as transcripts) can be adapted to comply with the student’s identity preferences.
The dress code for students is gender neutral. Schools are required to enforce the dress requirements equally among all students regardless of sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity.
The guide will reiterate that schools may set general dress standards for events but may not require gender specific attire. Schools may set a general expectation of dress for special events, such as proms, but the school may not dictate gender specific attire.
Situations involving restrooms, locker rooms, and student travel will continue to be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
The proposed procedures remain in draft form and will come to the school board for action in July.
The student support guide is expected to be completed in June in time for staff training in August and the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.