Metro Weekly

Miami-Dade School Board Rejects LGBTQ History Month

Board members rejected the proposal over concerns that it violates Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law prohibiting LGBTQ instruction.

Miami-Dade School Board – Photo: WPLG

On Wednesday, the Miami-Dade School Board voted against recognizing October as LGBTQ History Month during a meeting that the press describe as “rowdy.”

School Board Member Lucia Baez-Geller proposed the resolution, which claimed that recognizing the importance of LGBTQ History Month would meet the board’s goals of helping to create “a positive school climate by maintaining a safe environment and developing a sense of belonging for all students and staff.”

It would also serve to educate students and staff about the contributions of LGBTQ people in an effort to combat prejudice and discrimination.

Part of Baez-Geller’s resolution would have allowed social studies teachers who teach high school seniors to address the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that struck down various state bans on same-sex marriage, and the Bostock v. Clayton County decision finding that anti-gay discrimination is a prohibited form of sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act.

The board ultimately voted 8-1 to reject the resolution, declaring that it violated Florida’s recently enacted “Parental Rights in Education law — also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law — which prohibits schools from teaching LGBTQ-related material deemed not to be “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” for students in secondary grades. (The law also bans the teaching of LGBTQ-related material in grades K-3.)

The board’s non-voting student advisor, Andrea Pita Mendez, said she supported the resolution after talking to her peers, who were largely supportive.

However, some members of the audience — which was filled with parents and members of conservative activist groups — booed Mendez and became unruly while she was speaking, according to Miami-based ABC affiliate WPLG.

About 100 people shared their opinions for and against the resolution during the public comment section of the meeting.

Despite having voted to recognize LGBTQ History Month last year, the bulk of the board felt that doing so this year would run afoul of the law.

School Board Attorney James Harvey clarified that recognizing LGBTQ History Month wouldn’t be against the law, as assigning a designation to a certain month has no effect on curriculum.

However, Harvey also said that the resolution’s suggestion that seniors learn about LGBTQ court cases could run afoul of the law. It would likely be challenged by parents, who can now file complaints alleging violations.

If those complaints are found to have merit, punishments and penalties can be exacted against individual teachers and schools.

Baez-Geller defended the resolution, noting that the academic aspect applies in a limited context — 12th-grade social studies classes.

“We currently at Miami-Dade County Schools don’t have an LGBTQ curriculum,” she said. “This item does not indoctrinate students.”

School Board Member Marta Perez — a Republican recently defeated by a more conservative candidate who ran on “parental rights” and against “woke indoctrination,” and was backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis — said she voted against recognition because the board should be primarily concerned with academics, not social issues.

Maxx Fenning, the founder of PRISM, a group advocating for LGBTQ-inclusive education, said during the public comment period that LGBTQ history is American history, and that the group had collected at least 700 signatures from Miami-Dade residents who were in support of recognizing LGBTQ History Month.

But Eulalia Maria Jimenez, the chair of the Miami-Dade chapter of the conservative Moms for Liberty organization — which has chapters in various states and advocates against the teaching of “woke” or “politically correct” topics like critical race theory or LGBTQ issues in schools — said the resolution was a form of “indoctrination.”

Still another community member, Ada Naranjo, a former teacher, advocated against the resolution because the school board should be more focused on “core elements” of education and not on sexual orientation.

“We already have anti-bullying items to address the discrimination” that LGBTQ students may face in schools, she said.

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