Legal Battle ERUPTS Over Florida’s Restrictions on Gender-Pronouns in Schools

Under Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida has enacted controversial measures that restrict teachers’ ability to use preferred pronouns and titles in schools. The state has now been taken to court for infringing on teachers’ First Amendment Rights.

Florida Controversies

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Under the leadership of Conservative Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida has had no shortage of controversies when it comes to the rights of the LGBTQ+ community within the state.

A New Law on Pronouns

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This week, the State takes center stage again due to the 2023 law that prohibits teachers from using personal pronouns and titles that do not align with the sex assigned at birth to students in the Parental Rights in Education Act.

A Series of Measures

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This law restricting the use of student’s preferred pronouns is part of a series of measures supported by the Republican-controlled Legislature and Governor Ron DeSantis.

Signing the Extended Version

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When signing the expanded version of the Parental Rights in Education Act, Governor DeSantis said that Florida students and teachers would never use preferred pronouns.

The Pronoun Olympics

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Governor DeSantis Said, “Florida would not do ‘the pronoun Olympics’ and that teachers and students would ‘never be forced to declare pronouns in school or be forced to use pronouns not based on biological sex.’”

LGBTQ+ Issues

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These series of laws specifically target issues relating to the LGBTQ+ community and have some legal experts concerned the laws may be infringing upon citizens’ First Amendment rights.

Katie Wood

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One teacher affected by the new law is Katie Wood, a transgender teacher at Lennard High School in Hillsborough County who transitioned in 2020 and legally changed her name.

Teacher Wood

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Initially Wood felt very supported by her school community, but thanks to these new series of measures she can not be called “Ms.” and must be referred to as “Teacher Wood” instead.

Nonbinary Teacher’s Experience

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AV Schwandes, a nonbinary teacher previously employed by Florida Virtual School, was another teacher affected by the restrictions imposed by the new measures.

Non-Compliance With Measures

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Schwandes was fired from her teaching position in October 2023 for not compiling with the pronoun restriction. She is now under investigation and could potentially lose her teaching license.

First Amendment Rights

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In a new lawsuit, those who oppose the new pronoun law claim that it infringes upon the First Amendment rights of teachers by restricting their ability to express their gender identity and forcibly altering their identity. 

Setting Your Clock By It

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The Judge overseeing the case, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker, said, “Once again, the State of Florida has a First Amendment problem. Lately, it has happened so frequently that some might say you can set your clock by it.”

Violating Titles and Amendments

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The lawsuit also claims that the new law violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Clarity on Biological Sex

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However, those representing the state of Florida in the case argue that there needs to be clarity on the biological aspects of sex in educational settings, supporting the state’s pedagogical goals and parental rights. 

Favoring Ms. Wood

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Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker heard both sides and has issued preliminary injunctions that favor Katie Wood and block any enforcement against her.

Florida’s Absolute Authority

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In response to the case, Judge Walker said, “This time, the State of Florida declares that it has the absolute authority to redefine your identity if you choose to teach in a public school.”

The Question Before the Court

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The judge said, “So, the question before this Court is whether the First Amendment permits the State to dictate, without limitation, how public-school teachers refer to themselves when communicating to students. The answer is a thunderous ‘no.’”

Not Applying State-Wide

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However, Judge Mark Walker’s injunction does not apply statewide and was denied for Schwandes since they are no longer employed at a Florida State school.

Celebrating Herself

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After making the decision, Judge Walker said, “In sharing her preferred title and pronouns, Ms. Wood celebrates herself and sings herself—not in a disruptive or coercive way, but in a way that subtly vindicates her identity, her dignity, and her humanity.”

The post Legal Battle ERUPTS Over Florida’s Restrictions on Gender-Pronouns in Schools first appeared on Pulse of Pride.

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