ACPS appears before state over LGBTQ policies

Alachua County Public Schools sign
File photo by Suzette Cook

Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) joined nine other districts in appearing before the Florida Board of Education on Wednesday morning to discuss the district’s LGBTQ+ policies and procedures.

According to an ACPS release, interim Superintendent Shane Andrew joined superintendents/representatives in a phone meeting. The other districts included Brevard, Broward, Duval, Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, Hillsborough, Indian River, Leon, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach.

In mid November, the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) Senior Chancellor Jacob Oliva sent the 10 districts a letter informing them that their LGBTQ+ policies and procedures violated the state’s new Parents’ Bill of Rights legislation and State Board of Education Rule 6A-10.086, which addresses bathroom and locker room procedures.

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“Florida parents have a right to be fully informed of the education and the educational services being provided to their students,” Oliva wrote.

Oliva required the 10 districts to submit a response by Dec. 9.

ACPS replied with a letter stating that its LGBTQ+ Critical Support Guide – which was not board adopted – was used as procedures/guidelines within the district. Following the State Board of Education’s Oct. 19 presentation, Andrew added that the guide was removed from the ACPS website and would not be reinstated or used as guidance for district employees or students.

In an email to local reporters, district spokesperson Jackie Johnson said the move came “after consultation with legal counsel and in light of uncertainty regarding the full extent of the state’s concerns.”

“The state’s letter also indicates that ‘this list is not exhaustive,’ meaning there are likely other elements of the guide the state may consider to be in violation of the law/rule,” Johnson wrote.

Andrew concluded in the Dec. 9 letter to Oliva that ACPS would collaborate with the FDE should it decide to create a new policy, procedure or guide to ensure the district would be in compliance with all laws.

According to the Nov. 18 FDOE letter, the state outlined four significant elements of ACPS’ procedures outlined in its LGBTQ+ Critical Support Guide that did not comply with the new law and State Board rule. The items addressed student privacy, names and pronouns, restrooms/locker rooms and gender-based rules.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Andrew told the state board that ACPS is working on a new LGBTQ+ guide that complies with the new state law while addressing the needs of students. A draft of the new guide will be presented to the School Board of Alachua County (SBAC) at a workshop on Feb. 8.

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It may have saved some extra effort on the part of both ACPS and FDOE if ACPS had communicated their response BEFORE the deadline. Of course, it’s only taxpayer money, so it doesn’t come out of their pockets. grrr, govt bureaucracies can be sooo frustrating.