TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida advised school districts to ignore protections for LGBTQ students that President Joe Biden’s administration is trying to implement, saying the anti-discrimination language is not binding law and following the guidance could result in breaking state law.
Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz wrote to school districts Thursday saying they should not change current practices because of proposed new rules under Title IX that would extend sexual discrimination protections to students based on their gender identity or sexual orientation.
“Nothing in these guidance documents requires you to give biological males who identify as female access to female bathrooms, locker rooms, or dorms … or to allow biological males who identify as female to compete on female sports teams,” Diaz said.
He added that doing any of those things would “jeopardize the safety and wellbeing of Florida students and risk violating Florida law.”
But Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat and whose agency overseas school lunch programs, said the matter wasn’t just about bathrooms, but also about feeding students. The United States Department of Agriculture requires schools to put up a poster on nondiscrimination in order to receive federal money for lunch programs, she said.
“This is a fictitious culture war that they have created that is going to deny kids food,” Fried, who hopes to challenge Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, said at a news conference. “I will do everything possible to ensure that Florida’s kids are not victimized by the DeSantis administration and denied their meals.”
Fried’s department recently told schools they should hang posters with the new language. The Diaz letter told schools to disregard that guidance because it could violate state law.
Last year, DeSantis signed a bill banning anyone assigned male at birth from participating in girls’ or women’s sports. This year, he signed a bill that prohibits discussion of gender identity or sexual orientation in public schools at least through grade 3.
Earlier this month, a federal judge in Tennessee blocked implementation of the proposed new federal protections after 20 states sued over the issue.