ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A letter from the Florida Department of Education urges schools not to follow new federal guidelines aimed at protecting LGBTQ+ students.
Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. sent the letter Thursday to superintendents, school boards, private school owners and charter school governing boards. As Diaz explains, it's a response to President Biden's recent move to expand protections for LGBTQ students under Title IX.
Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which was signed into law 50 years ago, outlaws discrimination based on sex in schools and colleges. The Biden administration's new guidance expands these rules to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well.
Diaz's letter asserts that these new federal guidelines are "not binding law" and "should not be treated as governing law." He goes on to say that schools should not modify their "practices or procedures" based on the guidance.
"Specifically, for example, nothing in these guidance documents requires you to give biological males who identify as female access to female bathrooms, locker rooms, or dorms; to assign biological males who identify as female to female rooms on school field trips; or to allow biological males who identify as female to compete on female sports teams," the letter reads.
According to Diaz, if schools do follow through with these protections, they will "jeopardize the safety and wellbeing of Florida students and risk violating Florida law."
One Florida law he's referring to is a controversial bill that Gov. Ron DeSantis made official in 2021, which bans transgender athletes from competing in women’s sports.
“We’re going to go based on biology, not based on ideology when it comes to sports,” the governor said at the time.
DeSantis also made national headlines earlier this year for his outspoken support of the "Parental Rights in Education" bill, dubbed by critics as the "Don't Say Gay" bill. The legislation bars educators from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity to students in kindergarten through third grade, and beyond third grade if leaders deem them not to be age or developmentally appropriate.
The FDOE letter also denounces the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for suggesting that Florida schools comply with the federal Title IX guidelines. FDACS is headed by Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat looking to unseat DeSantis as governor.
In the letter, the FDOE accuses the Biden administration of attempting to "impose a sexual ideology on Florida schools that risk the health, safety, and welfare of Florida students" and says it will continue working to uphold Florida law.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democrat also looking to beat DeSantis, said, in part, "Demanding that school administrators and school board members ignore federal protections put into place to help kids is a new low for this Administration. Florida deserves better, Florida’s students deserve better, and Florida’s LGBTQ+ community deserves better."
You can read the full letter from the Florida Department of Education below.