Florida’s Department of Education on Thursday instructed school officials to ignore new federal guidance that interprets Title IX sex-based discrimination protections in schools to include the disputed concept of gender identity.
This comes after Florida’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), which administers the national school-lunch program, notified schools without consulting Florida’s education department that they should comply with the federal guidance.
“[President Joe Biden] and [FDACS Commissioner Nikki Fried] are attempting to hold our most vulnerable students hostage over radical gender ideology. Florida schools have NO obligation to follow this federal guidance and will not be threatened into submission,” Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. said on Twitter.
In a memo sent to state superintendents, school boards, private school owners, and charter school governing boards, Diaz Jr. informed school officials that the guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is “not binding law, do not create any new legal obligations, and should not be treated as governing law.”
Diaz Jr. said the federal agencies acknowledged in litigation that its guidance is not binding or enforceable, and he instructed school officials not to modify their practices or procedures based on the document.
The USDA announced in May that schools that want national lunch program funding must allow transgender youth to use gender-designated bathrooms of their choice. But Diaz noted that this would be in violation of Florida law.
“Specifically, for example, nothing in these guidance documents requires you to give biological males who identify as female access to female bathrooms, locker rooms, or dorms; to assign biological males who identify as female to female rooms on school field trips; or to allow biological males who identify as female to compete on female sports teams,” Diaz wrote.
“To the extent that you do any of these things, you jeopardize the safety and wellbeing of Florida students and risk violating Florida law.”
Guidance ‘Vastly Expands’ Title IX
The USDOE noted in a fact sheet about its proposed amendments to Title IX that discrimination based on biological sex would also apply to what the proposal’s critics consider the more abstract concept of gender identity and sexual orientation.
“They would make clear that preventing someone from participating in school programs and activities consistent with their gender identity would cause harm in violation of Title IX, except in some limited areas set out in the statute or regulations,” the fact sheet states.
The department said it would issue a separate set of proposed rules targeting measures that protect the integrity of male and female school sports that don’t allow biological males and females who identify as the opposite sex to play in teams designated based on biological sex.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance.
It applies to schools, local and state educational agencies, and other institutions that receive federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education.
In Florida, we are fighting against Biden’s intentionally destructive policies like denying school lunches for states that refuse to implement woke gender ideology in the schools. pic.twitter.com/YXpTky75Jn
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) June 5, 2022
Florida’s education commissioner, who has accused the Biden administration of weaponizing Title IX to push its “woke insanity” on young students, said the guidance document “vastly expands” Title IX.
“The Department will not stand idly by as federal agencies attempt to impose a sexual ideology on Florida schools that risk the health, safety, and welfare of Florida students,” Diaz wrote.
“The Department will do everything in its power to protect the wellbeing of all Florida students and to vindicate the right of all parents to know what takes place in their child’s classroom,” he added.
‘Woke Gender Ideology’
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has staunchly advocated to protect children and young people from President Joe Biden’s LGBT policies. DeSantis characterizes the policies, including those related to the school lunch program, as “woke gender ideology.”
At a news conference in Tampa on Wednesday, DeSantis expressed concern that school instruction in other states has encouraged young students to question their gender.
“And basically, this would be for elementary school kids, where they’re instructed to tell them, ‘Well, you may have been born a boy, that may have been what you said, but maybe you’re really a girl.’ That’s wrong. That has no place in school. So, that is happening in our country. Anyone that tells you it’s not happening is lying to you,” DeSantis said.
In June, DeSantis criticized Biden’s move to strip funding for school lunch programs in schools that don’t align with the White House’s LGBT policies. That USDA policy, announced in May, requires schools that want lunch program funding to allow transgender youth to use gender-designated bathrooms of their choice.
“In Florida, we are fighting against Biden’s intentionally destructive policies like denying school lunches for states that refuse to implement woke gender ideology in the schools,” DeSantis said on Twitter on June 5.
Florida is alongside more than a dozen states that have laws in place requiring students to use bathrooms and compete in sports according to their assigned sex at birth.
In March, DeSantis signed legislation that prohibits public schools from teaching sexual issues, such as gender identity or sexual orientation, to children in kindergarten through third grade.
These Florida policies have been challenged by LGBT advocates.