The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) announced on July 25 that it intends to proceed with a proposed rule requiring school districts to adopt a policy that provides parental notification related to the logistics of overnight field trips.
The regulation is being implemented to align FDOE’s policies with Florida’s Parental Bill of Rights law passed in 2021.
Under the law, FDOE is required to review and update “school counseling frameworks and standards; educator practices and professional conduct principles and any other student services personnel guidelines” to align with the new law by June 30, 2023.
Two LGBTQ rights groups, Equality Florida and Family Equality, filed suit in federal court in March, arguing the Parental Bill of Rights law is unconstitutional. Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor to throw out the case last month.
The new FDOE rule requires notification to parents, including details such as “the nature of the field trip, the dates and times, specific locations and types of establishments to be visited, modes of transportation and method of student supervision provided, such as anticipated number of chaperones.”
Additionally, the rule will require schools to specify “whether room assignments for overnight lodging will be separated by biological sex at birth,” and school districts must have procedures for overnight lodging or modifications to “ensure that all eligible students have the opportunity to participate in the field trip.”
The rule also applies to extracurricular activities and supplemental programs like tutoring.
The FDOE rule is at odds with federal guidelines issued under the Biden administration. Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. said that the federal guidelines “vastly expand the application” of Title IX and should be ignored.
Title IX is a federal law that was enacted more than 50 years ago to prohibit sex-based discrimination in educational institutions. The U.S. Department of Education last month released a proposal that it said would “provide greater clarity regarding the scope” of sex discrimination.
The federal guidelines would extend protections under the law to include schools’ “obligations not to discriminate based on sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Diaz sent letters on Thursday to superintendents, school boards, private-school owners, and charter-school governing boards that said federal guidance on these issues “are not binding law.”
A workshop on the proposed FDOE rule will be held at 9 a.m. on August 17 at the Pensacola State College Switzer Center for Visual Arts.
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Steve Stewart is a senior contributor at The Florida Capital Star.