By NANCY J. SEMON, STAFF WRITER, The Daily Sun, Jan 20, 2023.
PORT CHARLOTTE — Teaching students about the “benefits of monogamous heterosexual marriage” to prevent AIDS is one of the policy changes the Charlotte County School Board discussed this week.
It is among other changes to district policies under review to abide by Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law.
It came to being as HB 1557 — referred to by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Other school districts will have to vote on the new policies as well.
During a workshop meeting Tuesday, the Charlotte County School Board reviewed 49 policies. About a half-dozen are new. After revisions are reviewed and changes made, the board will adopt them at a future meeting.
Charlotte’s Comprehensive Health Education policy deals with myriad subjects, including nutrition, substance use, prevention of child abuse, human trafficking and the prevention of AIDS.
The original policy mandated teaching abstinence “as the only certain way to avoid pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/ AIDS.”
The revised policy adds that being in a monogamous, heterosexual marriage is a way of preventing AIDS. School districts throughout Florida are having to revise policies to align with legislative changes.
Sarasota County’s policy already reflects the change to promoting “the benefits of monogamous heterosexual marriage.”
“We are in the process of changing our policies,” Sarasota County Schools spokesperson Craig Maniglia said.
The Daily Sun reached out to the Florida Department of Health for comment. A spokesperson did not comment on the policy but provided a link to Centers for Disease Control information about preventing HIV transmission.
Charlotte County School Board member Kim Amontree said she was concerned with a statement in the district’s revised Policy 2210 entitled “Curriculum Development.”
It states: “The Board directs that the curriculum of this district ‘allows an instructional staff member to present information of a controversial nature (within the allowable scope of state statutes and State Board of Education rules) as long as the teacher does not present controversial material or issues which are not directly or closely related to the subject area being taught in presenting controversial materials on issues, the teacher shall present all sides without bias or prejudice and shall allow each student to arrive at his/her own conclusions.’’ Under the policy, the district must submit a board-approved K-12 “Comprehensive Evidence-Based Reading Plan” to the Florida Department of Education. The district’s curriculum must be approved by the state.
“Teachers should be allowed to teach,” Charlotte County School Board member Bob Segur said.
Citing the “Stop WOKE” Act, another new Florida law, Amontree said recent legislative changes could have “a chilling effect” on the district and teachers.
“We could be sued for violating students’ free speech” Charlotte County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Michael Desjardins said.
The board asked its attorney, Michael McKinley, to check with Neola, the Ohio-based firm that provides its policy templates, to determine whether the policy could make a teacher subject to a lawsuit.
Amontree said she was “worried” about it.
After the meeting, she said teachers can have legal action brought against them if they “subject a student or employee to training or instruction that espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels such student or employee to believe the specified concepts,” as the bill reads.
The School Board’s hands are tied with these policies, Amontree said.
“(It) must put policies in place which uphold the laws of the state of Florida. … (teachers) have a responsibility to be aware of changes in state law that inform instruction,” she said.
Another policy changes graduation requirements, requiring students in U.S. government classes to receive “at least 45 minutes of instruction on different communist regimes and how people suffered through poverty, starvation, lethal violence, and suppression of speech under them.”
Some policies are being changed to incorporate new legislation, while others are being revised or removed because they’re obsolete or redundant, Maniglia said.
“This is an opportunity to get rid of policies not needed and a better way to categorize them,” he said.
Image Credits: Teacher with students, in a classroom. Credit: Getty Images.