Florida and the federal government do not see eye to eye. Add in the fact that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is championing his success and approval rate with republican voters on his extreme reformation of the state’s Department Of Education (DOE), and it’s no wonder the Florida DOE is against the Biden administration’s liberal school initiatives. The divide has become so extreme between the two bodies of government that now, Florida is advising schools within the state not to follow federal rules and guidelines.
In the latest string of events to which DeSantis is vowing to fight against what he calls woke gender ideology and indoctrination in schools, the Florida DOE commissioner, Manny Diaz, told school districts to ignore federal guidelines that have been put in place to protect LGBTQ+ students and staff from discrimination under new Title IX proposals. This memo to schools was met with both approval and backlash, as some schools remain uncertain on how to handle endeavors out of fear of both state and federal retribution.
Diaz conveyed this announcement from the Florida DOE in a two-page memo to all public and private schools in the state. It is in direct response to the federal government’s recent proposal to amend the longstanding Title IX anti-discrimination civil rights law to specifically include LGBTQ+ individuals. Any school that is found not to be in accordance with measures under Title IX faces repercussions, like the loss of funding from federal education programs. Diaz noted that these new guidelines are not law, and reminded schools that if they are found to follow federal guidelines that impose sexual ideology in schools, they face penalties from the state.
In recent years, Florida has passed sweeping legislation targeting LGBTQ+ initiatives. They prohibit transgender students from participating in sports teams that don’t align with their birth gender. Likewise, the new contentious law coined by opposers as the Don’t Say Gay bill prohibits discussions about sexual education and identity entirely for grades kindergarten through third and is deemed inappropriate for all other grade levels. Reminding schools that all of this is now prohibited, the Florida DOE asserted that if schools don’t comply with state laws, they are putting the well-being of students at risk.
Some districts across the state now fear disciplinary measures from the federal government and the Florida DOE. On the state level, schools can be imposed hefty fines, or even lose state funding and accreditation if they are found guilty of breaking the state’s education laws. But on the federal level, schools risk losing money from federal programs, like the School Lunch Program, which helps pay for school meals.
There seems to be no end in sight to the battle between families and lawmakers that oppose gender affirmation initiatives, and its activist families and politicians pushing for more support. What’s more confusing, is that the federal government has vowed to push back against the Florida DOE and what they consider discriminatory laws, just as DeSantis pledged that the state will ignore federal guidelines. At the end of the day, all of the arguing takes time away from what’s considered to others to be the biggest problem in education, which centers around the perpetually failing academics.