Florida Board of Education Passes New Rules for Florida Schools, including Charter Schools

Today, the Florida State Board of Education formally adopted nearly a dozen administrative rules to further implement Florida laws that together protect parental rights, students’ safety and individual freedoms in Florida schools. The State Board of Education unanimously voted to require parental notification for any student bathrooms, locker rooms and dressing rooms that are not separated by biological sex at birth; establish a special magistrate for parents to address unresolved student welfare complaints at public charter schools (to align with the Board’s previously adopted policy for traditional public schools); prevent the unauthorized sharing of students’ personal identifying information with third-party vendors and others; and increase the transparency of elementary school library materials and reading lists – thereby eliminating inappropriate, indoctrinating and pornographic materials in libraries and classrooms.

These groundbreaking changes were rooted in legislation Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law earlier this year, specifically House Bill 7 “Individual Freedom,” House Bill 1467 “Curriculum Transparency,” and House Bill 1557 “Parental Rights in Education.”

“Parents have a right to be involved in their child’s education and informed regarding what is taking place at their child’s school, and moreover students have a right to come to a safe learning environment every day,” said Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. “I applaud the State Board of Education for upholding parental rights and continuing to promote the health, safety and welfare of the students in our schools.”

“Today we joined to uphold the right of parents to raise their children as they best see fit,” said State Board of Education Chair Tom Grady. “The rules and amendments we approved will support the safety of students and ensure Florida continues to provide high-quality education to every child.”

Specific rule changes adopted during today’s meeting include:

Parental Notification Regarding Designation of Bathrooms, Locker Rooms and Dressing Rooms

(Rule 6A-10.086) The purpose of this rule is to protect students’ safety and the fundamental rights of parents to be fully informed of how bathrooms are designated and how locker rooms, which include dressing rooms, are designated and supervised. The rule ensures full transparency to enhance the health, safety and welfare of students when utilizing bathrooms and locker rooms, and protect parental rights. State Representative Randy Fine stated in a social media post that this rule came as a result of a letter he sent to the board claiming there was a rape by a trans student on another student at a school in Brevard County. A Melbourne Police investigation, as well as an investigation by the DOE and School Board revealed that no such incident occurred. The false accusations made by Representative Fine had no bearing on the rule passed today. Fine also stated that this rule applied only to “public government schools” which is also not true as it applies to all public schools, including charter schools.

THE FULL TEXT OF THE PROPOSED RULE IS:

6A-10.086 School Board and Charter School Governing Board Policies or Procedures for Parental Notification Regarding Designation of Bathrooms, Locker Rooms, and Dressing Rooms.

(1) School Board and Charter School Governing Board Policies or Procedures for Bathrooms and Locker Rooms, which include Dressing Rooms. Any policies or procedures adopted or implemented by a school board or a charter school governing board for bathrooms and locker rooms must:

(a) Ensure the health, safety, and welfare of Florida’s students;

(b) Be consistent with the Parents’ Bill of Rights created under Chapter 1014, F.S;

(c) Protect the privacy of educational records as set forth in s. 1002.22, F.S., as well as the privacy interests of all students and parents; and

(d) Provide for parental notification as set forth in subsection (2) of this rule.

(2) Parental Notification.

(a) If a school board or charter school governing board has a policy or procedure that allows for separation of bathrooms or locker rooms according to some criteria other than biological sex at birth, the policy or procedure must be posted on the district’s website or charter school’s website, and must be sent by mail to student residences to fully inform parents. The policy or procedure must include, at a minimum, the following:

1. Method of student supervision provided for locker rooms, for example a coach or aide, and how that method of supervision ensures the safety and privacy of students; and

2. Which locker rooms are not separated by biological sex at birth; and

3. Which bathrooms are not separated by biological sex at birth.

(b) School board and charter school governing board policies or procedures must include accommodations or modifications in order to ensure that all students have an opportunity to use a bathroom or locker room separated by biological sex at birth.

(3) Exceptions. The requirements for parental notification in subsection (2) do not apply to faculty bathrooms that are not accessible to students, and single occupancy bathrooms.

Rulemaking Authority 1000.05(6)(a), 1001.02(1), (2)(n) FS. Law Implemented 1000.05(3) FS. History-New

Educational Records

(Amendment to Rule 6A-1.0955) The purpose of this amendment is to protect student privacy, health records, educational records and even safety when students are required to use online educational services or when districts contract with third party vendors or service providers. The rule also gives direction concerning retention and transfer of threat assessment records. This rule will strengthen the privacy and rights of students and safeguard their educational records in accordance with state and federal law.

Principles of Professional Conduct for the Education Profession

(Amendment to Rule 6A-10.081) The amendment prohibits classroom instruction to students in kindergarten through grade 3 on sexual orientation or gender identity and protects all students by expanding the definition of discrimination to include subjecting students to training or instruction that espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels any of the concepts listed in Section 1000.05(4)(a), Florida Statutes. 

Elementary School Website Listing of Library Materials and Reading Lists

(Rule 6A-7.0713) This new rule prescribes the format for the posting of materials maintained in elementary school library media centers and found on an elementary school required school or grade-level reading list as required by House Bill 1467. Parents will be able to search the materials a student in an elementary school grade level (K-5) has access to based upon title or author, depending upon the type of material.

Special Magistrate for Unresolved Student Welfare Complaints at Public Charter Schools

(Rule 6A-6.0791) The purpose for this new rule is to set forth the procedures around the special magistrate for unresolved student welfare complaints at public charter schools. Specifically, it describes the process for a parent to request that the Commissioner of Education appoint a special magistrate to hear certain disputes between a parent and a charter school. The special magistrate, who must be a member of the Florida Bar with a minimum of five years’ experience in administrative law, will provide a recommended decision for resolution of the dispute. The recommended decision will be provided to the State Board of Education for approval or rejection. This rule aligns with the Board’s previously adopted rule for traditional public schools.

School Safety Requirements and Monitoring

(Amendment to Rule 6A-1.0018) This amendment clarifies the reporting and documentation of threat assessments, including where no threat is found. In addition, the amendment addresses duties of the school safety specialist to ensure all school personnel receive youth mental health awareness training. Districts must submit district and public charter school policies and written procedures pertaining to health, safety, and welfare of students to the Office of Safe Schools by July 1 of each year.

Additional approved amendments involve updating the School District Professional Learning Systems template and the state Educator Accomplished Practices to align with new statutory requirements outlined in House Bills 7 and 1557 (2022). An amendment relating to school instructional materials evaluation procedures was also approved, which requires publishers and reviewers to assure that the materials submitted align with the principles of individual freedom.

The full State Board agenda can be found on the Florida Department of Education website, https://www.fldoe.org/policy/state-board-of-edu/meetings/2022/2022-10-19/.

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