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No, Florida teachers are not being told to take down photos of same-sex spouses

But teachers have been cautioned against specific discussion that could be seen as violating the state's limit on instruction of sexual orientation, gender identity.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tampa Bay area teachers have expressed concern over a new law taking effect in Florida they fear will limit how they can discuss LGBTQ+ issues and identities in certain grade levels.

The ‘Parental Rights in Education’ law – which critics nicknamed ‘Don’t Say Gay’ – takes effect July 1.

It regulates instruction on topics of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. School districts may opt to ban topics of sexual orientation or gender identity beyond third grade if it is deemed not to be age or developmentally appropriate.

Those standards have not yet been adopted by the state’s education department.

The LGBTQ state advocacy group Equality Florida is suing to block the new law.

A viral meme circulating on Instagram claims LGBTQ teachers in Orange County, Fla. are being told to take down photos in their classrooms of their same-sex spouses and to not talk about them with students.

The meme also says all rainbow clothing is being banned and teachers are required to report to parents if a student says they are not straight.

So, what's the deal? We looked into it.

THE SOURCES

THE QUESTION

Are LGBTQ teachers being told to remove photos of their same-sex spouses?

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, the district says it is encouraging teachers to keep pictures of their families in the classroom but cautioned against specific discussions.

WHAT WE FOUND

It appears claims in this viral meme originated from comments made during a June 28 school board meeting where several Orange County Public School teachers spoke about their concerns regarding the implications of the new Parental Rights in Education law.

The school board meeting comments followed a recent meeting the district held with principals and administrators to discuss legal issues that could arise because of the new law, according to a district spokesperson.

The OCPS legal department provided clarification to the teachers union (CTA) in response to specific questions raised.

The clarification, provided to VERIFY by a district spokesperson, says claims that teachers with same sex partners may not display their photos is not accurate.

"All teachers are encouraged to keep pictures of their families in the classroom,” according to the clarification provided to the union. “However, in K-3, it was cautioned against specific discussions in the event those discussions could be deemed classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

In a motion just filed by the state to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Equality Florida, the state provided its most extensive guidance yet on the new law.

“There is no merit,” the motion reads, “to the suggestion that the statute restricts gay and transgender teachers from ‘put[ting] a family photo on their desk’ or ‘refer[ring] to themselves and their spouse (and their own children).’”

Those actions, according to the state, are not considered “instruction.”

Teachers are also free to “'respond if students discuss . . . their identities or family life,'” the motion reads, "and answer 'questions about their families.'"

THE QUESTION

Are teachers being banned from wearing rainbow clothing?

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, the district says teachers are not being banned from wearing pride shirts but are cautioned that wearing such shirts could start a discussion that might be viewed as instruction.

WHAT WE FOUND

The OCPS legal department provided clarification to the teachers union (CTA) in response to specific questions raised.

The clarification, provided to VERIFY by a district spokesperson, says claims that teachers are not allowed to make references to gay pride and are discouraged from wearing pride shirts is not accurate.

But teachers are being cautioned about wearing clothing that “may elicit discussions that could be deemed classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity,” according to the district’s legal department.

This is in line with provisions contained in district policy that govern political activity of staff, according to a district spokesperson.

As far as displaying pride flags or ‘safe space’ stickers, the district is recommending those items be removed from K-3 classrooms, “so that classroom discussion [does] not inadvertently occur on prohibited content.”

THE QUESTION

Are teachers required to report to parents if a students says they are not straight?

THE ANSWER

This is false.

The district maintains it is inaccurate that teachers will be required to notify parents if a students comes out to them as gay.

WHAT WE FOUND

The OCPS legal department provided clarification to the teachers union (CTA) in response to specific questions raised.

The clarification, provided to VERIFY by a district spokesperson, says claims that teachers will be required to notify parents if a student comes out to them that they are gay are not accurate.

The district says its recommendations are consistent with the statutory language of the new law. Parental notification is required if there is a change in the student’s 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.

The district also addressed other rumors:

  • The district says it will continue to use the child’s and parent’s preferred gender pronouns.
  • The district says it will not be removing all books that reference gender identity or sexuality from classroom libraries and media centers in elementary and middle schools. It is recommending any instructional material available to K-3 students be reviewed for prohibited content.
  • The district says its current guidelines regarding bathroom use by cis-gender, transgender, non-binary, and gender-fluid students remains unchanged.

The VERIFY team works to separate fact from fiction so that you can understand what is true and false. Please consider subscribing to our daily newsletter, text alerts and our YouTube channel. You can also follow us on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Learn More »

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