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The Student News Site of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

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Gov.+Ron+DeSantis+and+the+Florida+Department+of+Education+are+attempting+to+erase+Black+and+LGBTQ%2B+students+from+school.+The+new+rules+and+regulations+are+discriminatory+and+must+be+repealed.
Liliana Griffis
Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education are attempting to erase Black and LGBTQ+ students from school. The new rules and regulations are discriminatory and must be repealed.

[Opinion] Florida government pushes Black and LGBTQ+ students further into oppression

Systemic racism and homophobia have been allowed to take hold in the curriculum, policies and practices of schools across the state of Florida. The actions of a variety of state officials, from the Florida legislature to the Florida Department of Education, prove that multiple layers of government are working deliberately to increase the oppression of some of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups: LGBTQ+ students and Black students.

Proof can be found within the two new consent forms that have been rolled out in every Florida school district to comply with Florida Administrative Code Rule 6A-1.0955. The first requires parents to provide permission for their student to be called something other than their legal name, including nicknames and preferred names.

If a parent does not fill out this form with a student’s preferred name, a teacher could lose their teaching license for calling the student anything other than their legal name. Teachers are also prohibited from referring to students by their preferred pronouns. Teachers should not have to walk on eggshells around laws that disproportionately target transgender teens to avoid losing their jobs.

It is obvious that the consent form was not rolled out so that “Johnathan” would not be called “Johnny” unless their parents agreed; this was not to stop students from being called nicknames, but rather an accidental repercussion of the new transphobic law.

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The second form requires parental consent for students to attend any afternoon activities from club meetings to events. This ensures that students cannot join clubs that do not align with their parents’ political or other belief structure and restricts students’ abilities to try out new clubs or be exposed to new ideas without parental consent.

The forms were purposefully made to ensure that trangender students who are in the closet to their parents or have unsupportive parents could not have their gender identity respected at school and also cannot join their school’s gender sexuality alliance club.

Genderqueer students are also restricted from playing sports and using the bathroom that are associated with their gender identity. They are restricted from having teachers or school staff use their preferred pronouns without parental permission, and no instruction on gender identity is allowed in the state for students before ninth grade. It is reprehensible how the Florida legislature treats their queer students in schools, a place that is oftentimes considered a safe haven for LGBTQ+ youth who live in unsupportive, homophobic or transphobic homes.

Bringing these laws into the classroom hinders teachers’ abilities to adequately educate students for life outside of school. It completely decimates the potential relationship that could be formed between a teacher and student. The government is trying to wipe queer existence from society and force them back into the closet by dismantling whatever safe space they may have.

Florida officials effectively banned an entire class simply because one of the nine units briefly touches upon how being queer affects a person’s upbringing is a clear attempt to dismiss non-heteronormative identities. Advanced Placement Psychology courses have a unit in which gender and sexual orientation are discussed in relation to socialization and development.

The confusion created in August by the back and forth between the FLDOE and the College Board over this course, left school districts unsure of whether or not they were allowed to offer the class. 

Ultimately, some school districts either dropped the course and switched their curriculum to include other psychology classes because they are so afraid of running afoul of the state’s laws on gender and sexuality instruction in schools. Others, including Broward County Public Schools, required  an “opt-in” form for parents to consent to their students being taught the material.

If students are seeking to be taught college-level courses, then they are mature enough to be informed on who and what the LGBTQIA+ community is. AP students are at the age where people begin to question their identity and with it their sexuality and gender, as described in Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, which officials would know if they took AP Psychology.

The Florida Department of Education also took aim at how African American history is taught. The FLDOE banned College Board’s newest AP course: AP African American Studies. In a letter to Brian Barnes, a senior director at College Board, the FLDOE denied the organization permission for school districts in the state to include the class in their curriculum, claiming that “the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”

This ban is not the only controversial issue in teaching African American history. The state also adopted changes to the state’s African American History standards, which affects the instruction of every student from grades K-12.

Most notably, students now have to be taught how violence was perpetrated by African Americans and how being a slave taught them valuable skills. These standards were revised to simplify centuries of institutionalized oppression into two-dimensional caricatures which are a far cry from the horrific realities of Black Americans.

Preventing the younger generation from learning about the systemic issues that are built into the fabric of our society also prevents them from being able to precipitate change. The point of restricting their knowledge is a ploy to keep social progress at a standstill.

FLDOE’s changes use faulty reasoning. The principles they base their arguments on depend on altering American history to accommodate a more attractive version. Whitewashing history and erasing any evidence of wrongdoing ensures that the lasting effects will continue to develop at the expense of minority students. Once again, politics compromise the quality of Florida students’ education.

The actions of the Florida Legislature, the governor and the FLDOE places their racism on full display, despite them trying to erase all traces of oppression in history. It ensures that students never have to understand the truth of the kind of horrors that ensued to create today’s America. This country was built off of the work of African American slaves. Failure to acknowledge the labor they were forced into is abhorrent and further to pretend like it never happened is worse.

The recent changes have not been made with the students’ best interests in mind, and most trade students’ rights to explore new ideas with parents rights to control their children. When students do not learn these key concepts and ideas, they become ignorant and less empathetic of the different issues their peers may face.

Discussions are the backbone of understanding; without them, social change becomes stagnant, which may very well be the point.

The bigoted agenda of Florida officials is obvious to anyone paying even slight attention, yet they are allowed again and again to get away with their actions. It is unjustifiable that their persistent bias has and will continue to impair the lives of Florida’s queer and Black students.

This story was originally published in the October 2023 Eagle Eye print edition.

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About the Contributor
Liliana Griffis
Liliana Griffis, Reporter
Liliana Griffis is a sophmore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Liliana Griffis does graphics in her free time.
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