Students at a Florida high school walked out of class on Tuesday, November 27, to protest the reassignment of the school’s principal following a district investigation into whether a transgender student-athlete was allowed to compete on the school’s girls’ volleyball team.
The students held signs and chanted “Trans lives matter!” and “Bring back Cecil!” (referring to the reassignment of former Principal James Cecil) during a 30-minute demonstration outside Monarch High School in Coconut Creek.
Officials with Broward County Public Schools launched an investigation into the school after allegations surfaced that a transgender girl had been permitted to participate on the girls’ volleyball team in violation of a state law requiring all student-athletes to participate only on sports teams matching their assigned sex at birth.
In addition to Cecil, other school officials reassigned to non-school sites were assistant principal Kenneth May, athletic director Dione Hester, and information management technician Jessica Norton, reports South Florida NBC affiliate WTVJ. Temporary athletic coach Alex Burgess was told his services were on pause while the investigation proceeded.
At a news conference, Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Peter Licata said he had received a complaint about a transgender athlete on the girls’ volleyball team.
“That is not an indication of discipline,” Licata said of the decision to reassign faculty. “It is an indication that we want to make sure that when we investigate, it is done properly and appropriately. Again, we want to make sure we do this right, nobody is guilty of anything at this point.
“The volleyball season is over and we have some new processes that we’re going to move forward with. We’ll have an extra level of investigation on making sure everyone is eligible for the sport they’re playing, in all aspects, grade level, grades, so forth and so on.”
It is unclear what Licata and investigators are alleging in terms of the role that the reassigned staff played in allowing the transgender student to play on the girls’ team.
When questioned by reporters, Licata denied that the reassignments had anything to do with a lawsuit seeking to challenge the law previously brought by the student and her parents against the school district, the high school athletic association, and state officials. A federal judge dismissed the case on all counts earlier this month.
Under Florida law, students assigned male at birth are not permitted to compete on sports teams designated for female athletes. The law also says that an athlete’s sex is determined by the gender listed on their official birth certificate, which is assumed to be correct if it was filed “at or near the time of the student’s birth.”
On the state high school athletic association’s pre-participation physical evaluation form, the question of a student’s “sex assigned at birth” appears at the very top of the form, and then two additional times.
Twenty-three other U.S. states either have an official law, similar to Florida’s, or a regulation that prohibits transgender students from playing on teams matching their gender identity.
The school district has pledged to ensure the district is in compliance with the law.
“We will continue to follow state law and will take appropriate action based on the outcome of the investigation,” John Sullivan, a spokesman for Broward County Public Schools, said in a statement. “We are committed to providing all our students with a safe and inclusive learning environment.”
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