(The Center Square) – Miami-Dade County Public Schools board members this week voted 8-1 to uphold state law and not designate October as LGBTQ History Month.
“It was clear here today that we were going to follow the law, and the Parental Rights bill is very clear that this type of imposition should not be imposed on our children, especially in our elementary schools, and an endorsement district-wide was in direct violation of the Parental Rights bill,” board member Christi Fraga said after the vote.
The Parental Rights in Education bill signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in March, which is now in effect, prohibits public school personnel from instructing students about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
Board members who opposed the designation were the chair of the school board, Perla Tabares Hantman, its vice chair, Steve Gallon III, and board members Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Christi Fraga, Lubby Navarro, Marta Pérez, Mari Tere Rojas, and Luisa Santos. Lucia Baez-Geller, who sponsored the measure, was the only one who voted for it.
After the vote, members of the audience stood, cheered and clapped.
The measure related to teaching district wide about U.S. Supreme Court and other cases related to gender ideology. Baez-Geller said it wouldn’t have required all teachers to teach it and students could opt out.
“The landmark cases that we are asking to include are American history,” Baez-Geller said. “They are the law, and that’s why we’re studying them and we know that the state and all the laws support this being studied in the classroom.”
“This item does not indoctrinate students, it does not force an agenda on students,” she said during the meeting. “And, as was stated incorrectly, this item does not take away parental choice.”
Board member Tere Rojas said approving the designation and subsequent lessons violated state law but also conflicted with another recognition for the month: National Hispanic Heritage Month. The designation is recognized in the district between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15.
“We must remember it is imperative to note that 73.3% of the students that we serve are Hispanic,” Tere Rojas said.
The vote came after hours of debate and a six-hour meeting during which “there were shouting matches inside and people insulted and heckled each other,” NBC News 6 reported. WPLG News reported that security intervened after heated exchanges between members of the audience.
Scott Galvin, director of Safe Schools South Florida, Maxx Fenning, the founder of PRISM, and many others expressed support for the measure. Fenning said teaching LGBTQ history was part of American history and there were a minimum of 700 signatures from residents who expressed support for the designation.
The school board’s vote is another example of how Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ message of education freedom – including empowering parents, banning “woke” curriculum, and ensuring education transparency – is playing out in local school boards, some opponents of the measure argue.
Numerous groups like the Christian Coalition and Moms for Liberty opposed the measure. Eulalia Maria Jimenez, chair of Moms for Liberty Miami-Dade, said the measure was equivalent to “indoctrination.”
Moms for Liberty recognized DeSantis at an event it held in Tampa in July. DeSantis headlined the event, saying, “We have drawn a very clear line in the sand that says our school system is for educating kids, not indoctrinating kids. Parents have a fundamental role in the education of their kids. … the state of Florida has to not just talk the talk with parents’ rights but walk the walk with parents’ rights.”
Numerous media outlets and opponents of the parental rights law have claimed it’s “anti-gay,” referring to it as the “don’t say gay” law. A review of the seven-page bill by The Center Square reveals no such language exists; the word “gay” isn’t in the bill.
The law requires schools to teach children age-appropriate material and to provide parents access to their children’s records and involve them in the decisions about mental health and other services offered. It prohibits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity from being taught to children in kindergarten through third grade. It also requires that instruction starting at fourth grade and beyond be age and developmentally appropriate.
It also requires school boards to notify parents if there’s a change in their child’s services or monitoring related to their mental, emotional, or physical health and wellbeing.