Amid Parental Rights Debate, Confidentiality Policies Vary Across Florida School Boards


Amid a debate over parental rights in education legislation (HB 1557/SB 1834), a review of policies across several Florida school boards indicates there is inconsistent guidance related to parental rights and student confidentiality.

For example, recent reports about elementary school officials in Clay County engaging in the counseling of a student without notifying parents revealed competing views about parental rights within the school district.

Clay County school officials allegedly invoked “confidentiality rules” to justify not including parents in the counseling sessions.

However, a lawsuit notes that the Clay County Public Schools’ written guidance expressly contradicts the use of “confidentiality rules.” An exhibit attached to the lawsuit indicates that children do not have a confidentiality right and that school officials must obtain parental consent before guaranteeing confidentiality to a child.

In Palm Beach County, an LGBTQ guide directs a teacher, guidance counselor, or administrator, to respond to parents who seek information about their child by saying, “Based on our policy and federal guidelines, I cannot divulge whether your child and I have had any such confidential conversations, as even students are legally afforded rights of privacy.”

And in Leon County, after complaints from parents, Superintendent Rocky Hanna directed school officials to contact parents when addressing gender issues with students unless a student is in danger. School officials had previously told parents they were not required to be notified of an intervention based on state law and Leon County School (LCS) guidance.

The legislation working its way through the Florida Legislature provides that school districts must adopt procedures for notifying parents if there is a change in their student’s services or monitoring related to a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being. It also prohibits school districts from maintaining procedures that withhold or encourage students to withhold such information from parents.

However, opponents have labeled the proposal the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.” This references the provision in the bill that limits discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity to only age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate for students.

Equality Florida, a left-wing LGBTQ advocacy group, released the following statement on the legislation:

This dangerous bill blocks teachers from talking about LGBTQ issues or people and undermines existing protections for LGBTQ kids in schools. This legislation is meant to stigmatize LGBTQ people, isolate LGBTQ kids, and make teachers fearful of providing a safe, inclusive classroom. The existence of LGBTQ students and parents is not a taboo topic that has to be regulated by the Florida Legislature.”

One opponent of the bill, State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando), has refused to answer questions submitted by The Florida Capital Star about her position on parental rights and student confidentiality. The Capital Star has submitted the same questions to other opponents of the legislation and will report their answers when they are received.

The legislation was passed by the House’s Education and Employment Committee by a vote of 15-5 on January 20 and now awaits further action in the House Judiciary Committee.

– – –

Steve Stewart is a senior contributor at The Florida Capital Star. Email tips to [email protected]




Related posts