MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – The Miami-Dade School Board allowed dozens of public speakers on Wednesday to voice their diverse positions on a resolution to recognize October as LGBTQ History Month that didn’t pass.
Andrea S. Pita Mendez, the school board’s student advisor, said she was very scared during the meeting. There were tensions among speakers polarized on the subject.
Security had to intervene when the crowd got rowdy after Mendez, 17, said she supported the recognition of LGBTQ History Month after talking to her peers.
“Our students want this to pass,” said Mendez, who is not a voting member.
After a tense long meeting, the Miami-Dade School Board’s majority voted against the H-11 action proposed by School Board member Lucia Baez-Geller because they believed it conflicted with the state’s Parental Rights in Education bill.
School Board member Luisa Santos, who represents District 9, said she was outraged by the way the adults who were in the room disrespected Mendez. Some of the adults booed the high school student who was attending the second meeting of her term.
School Board chair Perla Tabares Hantman and School Board vice chair Steve Gallon III and six other School Board members — Santos, Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Lubby Navarro, Mari Tere Rojas, Marta Pérez, and Christi Fraga — said they were against H-11.
“We have to be in accordance with the law,” said Tabares Hantman, who represents District 4 and plans to retire in November.
Bendross-Mindingall, who represents District 2, commended the students and parents who attended the meeting, which went on for over six hours. Gallon III, who represents District 1, said more than 100 people shared their opinions during the time designated for public comments.
Alejandro Serrano, one of the public speakers, claimed the measure went against Florida law. School Board Attorney Walter James Harvey said the recognition itself isn’t against the law, but the curriculum could be.
“They can file complaints. There is a special magistrate process ... There is a procedure that requires expeditious review,” Harvey said about the opposing parents’ recourse.
Baez-Geller, who represents District 3, said the academic aspect applies to Supreme Court cases in 12th-grade classes and those would be up to the teachers. She also said parents can decide to opt-out.
“We currently at Miami-Dade County schools don’t have an LGBTQ curriculum,” Baez-Geller said adding, “This item does not indoctrinate students. It does not force an agenda on students.”
Fraga, who represents District 5, said last year she voted against the recognition and she planned to do the same this year, partly because H-11 creates a “hostile” environment and uncertainty.
“If we are going to allow the teachers to decide what will be taught in classrooms during this time, that concerns me,” Fraga said.
Rojas, who represents District 6, said she doesn’t believe the recognition and the lessons are in compliance with the state law. She also said there was a conflict with another recognition.
“We must remember it is imperative to note that 73.3% of the students that we serve are Hispanic,” Rojas said about a conflict with National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
Navarro, who represents District 7, said the school board doesn’t discriminate against anyone. She said there shouldn’t be any group of students who feels discriminated against.
Pérez, who represents District 8, said she was concerned about misinformation by The Christian Coalition, an organization that was standing against the recognition. Pérez said she decided to vote against it because academics and not social issues should take priority.
Scott Galvin, the director of Safe Schools South Florida; Alberto Cairo, a University of Miami professor; Nancy Lawther, a PTA leader; and Rev. Candace Thomas were among those who expressed their support for adopting H-11.
Maxx Fenning, the founder of PRISM, said LGBTQ history is American history and there were at least 700 signatures from Miami-Dade residents who were in support of the recognition.
“You can’t teach history without controversy,” Fenning said.
Eulalia Maria Jimenez, the chair of Moms for Liberty Miami-Dade, asked the school board members to vote against the recognition and said it equated to “indoctrination.”
A trans woman was among the supporters who said there were members of “hate groups” in the audience that were using words such as “indoctrination” to “dehumanize” the LGBTQ community.
Ada Naranjo said that as a former teacher she believes the school board should be more focused on the “core elements” and not on a “sexual orientation” item.
“We already have anti-bullying items to address the discrimination,” Naranjo said.
Amid the mention of religion, MaryBeth Loretta, a clinician at The Alliance for LGBTQ+ Youth, asked the members to support the recognition “like Christ would do.”
Elizabeth Santander and Rachel Morales, both mothers of public school students, said the recognition was in violation of the state and federal laws that protect their parental and religious rights.
“Parents have the right to choose what type of education our children receive,” Santander said about the very state law that resulted in the board’s vote.
FacebookLive: First group of public speakers