The Lee County School District received an update on recent state legislation this week along with a notice that there is an avalanche of legal issues with many bills passing.
Ashley Stacell, a legislative consultant for Capital Strategies Consulting Inc., reviewed six bills this week that she says are likely to impact education.
Among them was House Bill 7, Individual Liberties or Critical Race Theory, a bill that generated much debate.
According to Capital Strategies Consulting’s 2022 Legislative Final Report, “The bill clarifies that instruction and curricula may not be used to indoctrinate or persuade students to adopt a particular viewpoint inconsistent with the principles of individual liberty or the academic standards of the state.”
Stacell said it was hotly debated in the House and all Democrats stood up and spoke out against it.
“It was just enacted this week. It comes into the curriculum with students talking about history, especially African American history and how teachers can approach those topics and what they can and can’t say,” she says. “When it comes to hardware, there is language in the bill. The State Board of Education must have inspiring curriculum stories for them to develop.
These stories “must consist of stories from American history that demonstrate important life skills and the principles of individual freedom that have enabled individuals to thrive in the most difficult of circumstances”, says the report.
There has been a new trend during legislative sessions.
“What happened in the Senate is that they are going to take the bill back from the House. They take legislation from the House and debate this bill without their own legislation that has been approved,” she says.
The debate becomes the process, said Carole Green, legislative consultant for Capital Strategies Consulting, Inc., which takes the real debate away from the bill.
Council counsel Kathy Dupuy-Bruno said the bill would certainly be challenged.
“This is definitely a whole new area that hasn’t been tested yet,” she says. “We know there will be tests of this specific law. We will ensure staff are fully informed and understand the changes and minimize risk as much as possible. This is going to be extremely impactful and we are monitoring the legal landscape. »
Dupuy-Bruno said at this point staff and the district should assume they are still on camera.
“These are major legal issues that we are going to have to deal with. An avalanche of legal problems is sure to await us. Let us not lose sight of the magnitude of this bill. He talks about education, work, employment and training. It is a huge bill. We have to move forward with caution,” she says.
There was also discussion of House Bill 497, which is for an elected, as opposed to appointed, superintendent of schools in Lee County. Stacell said there were members against the bill because they feared it would impact their school district.
“There was a debate in the House” Green said, adding that because there was pressure that it was a local bill, it passed. “There is a referendum during the general elections. The referendum coin helped him pass. The local people decide. This is where the education, if you will, of the electorate becomes a very important issue for individuals.
Dupuy-Bruno said the bill would not change the obligations of the superintendent and the school board.
“What changes is that the elected superintendent has a political office. The only person who can impeach an elected official is the governor.“, she said, adding that there would be no term limit for the superintendent.
Another bill, Senate Bill 1048, Student Assessments, was also discussed as it changes standard Florida assessment tests into coordinated screening and progress tracking tools for ELA classes. third to 10th grade and mathematics from third to eighth grade. Stacell said there will be smaller tests throughout the year as benchmarks.
“They give a one-year transition. The changes begin in 2023-2024,” she says.
House Bill 1557, Parental Rights in Education, Stacell said, is the bill banning classroom instruction about gender identity from kindergarten through third grade.
“My children have never heard of sexual orientation or gender identity,” she says of her four children. “My twins are in fifth grade. I went online and looked for material and it was mostly about puberty and showering. Nothing about gender identity.
The report also indicated that the “The bill requires each district school board to adopt procedures to notify a student’s parent if there is a change in services or supervision related to mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being. of the pupil.”
If the Governor approves this bill, the provisions will take effect on July 1, 2022.
Dupuy-Bruno said that there is a creation of legal recourse, in particular for bills 7, 1557 and 1467. She said that the legal team is meeting with academic services and proposing guidelines to provide them with a path to move forward.
House Bill 1467, K-12 Education, includes items such as term limits for school board members and public participation in the educational materials review process.
“Staff are concerned about this, and rightly so. We will refer to sister districts, see where everyone is,” said Dupuy-Bruno. “The legal is definitely on top of that. We know the law is there and we work with staff and guide the district as best we can. Our legal recommendation is to always follow the law and, as the law changes, make sure we follow it.
She said there are a lot of fact patterns that they are going to have to tread carefully in this minefield.
“Before the Parents’ Bill of Rights, there was probably an absence in the law where there was an obligation to inform a parent of certain things”, said Dupuy-Bruno. “Specifically, the legislation addresses LGBTQ, gender identity and transgender issues. The Parents’ Bill of Rights has come into force. Some felt it was not strong enough. 1557 speaks a lot about the responsibility of parents to educate their child. It talks about well-being, emotional and physical. Parents are the ultimate decision maker in terms of morality and certain things taught.
She said part of the bill says the district must encourage parent-student conversations when LGBTQ issues arise. The absolute requirement of what it looks like is still under discussion.
“The big problem is when you have a student who goes to school and passes on information about gender identity and where they fit in and ask for help,” said Dupuy-Bruno. “There are some things we never had to divulge.”
She gave the example of a student who goes to a counselor and says that’s where he belongs, what his gender identity is, while saying in the same sentence that I don’t want my parents to know because “My father is going to kill me. It went unreported, and then the child turns 18 and graduates and finally reveals to the parents what his gender identity is.
“The kid is in intensive care for two weeks because the father beats him. That’s the dilemma,” said Dupuy-Bruno.
They will present a legal and factual fairness guide to the council on May 24, Dupuy-Bruno said.