School districts look to establish guidelines as so-called Don’t Say Gay bill becomes law

School districts across the state are scrambling to establish guidelines for their teachers and staff as so-called Don't Say Gay law goes into effect.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – For 20 years, the Safe School South Florida group has been hosting their annual Empowerment Day for LGBTQ youth and there has never an issue, until now.

Organizers believe what some call the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which takes effect July 1, may be to blame.

“This year we had a hostess who was a drag queen,” said Scott Galvin, executive director at Safe Schools South Florida.

Galvin tells Local 10 News the Miami-Dade School District did not like the idea of having a drag queen host the April event at the Coral Gables Congregational Church, which even hosted one of the nine Miami-Dade School Board Members, Lucia Baez-Geller.

Get rid of the drag queen or shut down the event, Galvin said he was told.

But the leadership of Safe Schools South Florida did not cave to demands and the event went on with the agreement the school district would not promote it.

“Where do we draw the line then? If it’s a trans emcee next year will you say no because of ‘Don’t Say Gay?’” Glavin said. “What about rainbow flags...are we allowed to show those?”

Miami-Dade Schools Spokesperson Jaquelyn Calzadilla Diaz told Local 10: “...the District felt as though the essence of the event had shifted with entertainment as a primary focus. M-DCPS personnel attempted to address some of these concerns; however, an agreement could not be reached.”

“This important event, which has been regularly promoted by the District, provides a safe and affirming environment for our LGBTQ youth and their allies,” Calzadilla Diaz admitted.

She adds the district continues to promote a positive and proactive approach that supports all students, including the LGBTQ student population.

Calzadilla Diaz pointed to the SAFE Network and the fact that all Miami-Dade schools have a designated liaison who is especially trained in these services.

The district would not say whether it was Superintendent Jose Dotres who asked the drag queen be removed from the program and made the decision not to promote the event.

The LGBTQ event took place less than a month after Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights or Don’t Say Gay bill into law.

“The supporters of this bill have done a masterful job of making people think that it’s just grade k through three. But it’s actually open to being applied at all levels,” Galvin said.

Critics believe the following passage of the law is the reason the legislation if flawed: “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students...”

“Since our school systems are not coming out yet and saying here is where we stand on this issue...they’re all being silent,” Galvin said. “What it’s doing is leaving the law open for interpretation by mid-level staff members.”

As for training of teachers and administrators on the new law, Miami-Dade and Broward say they’re developing guidance and training.

The Florida Department of Education did release a document with guidance, which can be viewed below:

About the Author:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.