LGBT groups file motion seeking information in parental rights lawsuit

by | Sep 13, 2022

  • A motion filed by LGBTQ-advocacy organizations alleges that “extraordinary measures” are being taken to “purge any trace of LGBT people from schools”
  • Examples cited as evidence allegedly include “safe space” stickers being removed from classrooms, and bans on rainbow clothing worn by teachers
  • The Parental Rights in Education law prohibits instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade
  • The law also requires instruction in older grades to be age-appropriate and in accordance with state academic standards
  • A trial in the case isn’t expected until mid-April

TALLAHASSEE — Plaintiffs challenging a Florida law restricting instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in schools are asking a judge to reverse an order stalling their ability to gather information in the case, arguing that the law is being used throughout the state to “censor any positive or supportive reference to LGBT people.”

LGBTQ-advocacy organizations Equality Florida and Family Equality, parents, students and a teacher filed the lawsuit in March, shortly after the Republican-dominated Legislature passed the law. The plaintiffs allege the law violates constitutional free-speech and equal-protection rights.

Defendants in the lawsuit, who include members of the State Board of Education and several school boards, have asked that the case be dismissed.

U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor in July put on hold plaintiffs’ ability to seek information from the defendants, a process known as discovery, until requests to dismiss the case are resolved.

But in a motion filed Monday, lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that “the facts on the ground have changed materially” in the weeks since Winsor’s ruling and the onset of the school year in August.

“Throughout Florida, schools are taking extraordinary measures to purge any trace of LGBT people from schools, and teachers are afraid to show any support for LGBT students,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote in Monday’s court filing, adding “the intended and foreseeable harms” of the law “are stark, widespread and proliferating.”

The motion, citing news stories, laid out numerous examples of how schools, teachers and students are interpreting the measure (HB 1557). It alleged:

— The Pasco County school district told teachers to “remove ‘safe space stickers’ from all schools … in order to comply with HB 1557.” Safe spaces are “inclusive environments” where LGBT students can feel secure and welcome.

— Orange County school officials “warned educators not to wear rainbow articles of clothing” and to remove safe-space stickers as well as “pictures of same-sex spouses from their desks.”

— Multiple school districts have removed books with LGBTQ content from library shelves and book fairs, and teachers have been warned that they could lose their teaching licenses if objectionable content is found in their classrooms.

— A Palm Beach County history teacher changed her lesson about Sally Ride, the country’s first female astronaut, “to omit her identity as a lesbian” because “she didn’t know how to explain that without running afoul of the new laws.”

The motion, which included other examples, said the cited instances “only scratch the surface” of the law’s “harmful impact,” and argued that other circumstances are unknown to the plaintiffs without the discovery process.

“These escalating harms and uncertainties emphasize the need for discovery to commence, so that the case can get back on track and plaintiffs’ claims can be adjudicated on the merits on as expedited a basis as possible,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote in the 20-page motion.

Even if discovery were allowed to begin immediately, a trial in the case likely wouldn’t take place until mid-April, “exposing plaintiffs to ever-increasing harms through the end of the school year,” the lawyers argued.

The law, which has drawn national attention, bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and requires that such instruction in older grades be “age-appropriate … in accordance with state academic standards.”

Republican lawmakers titled the measure the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, while opponents dubbed it the “don’t say gay” bill.

The lawsuit alleged that the measure is unconstitutional, discriminatory and “clearly the product of animus towards Florida’s LGBTQ community.”

But in a motion to dismiss the case filed in June, lawyers for Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office argued that the legislation “expressly allows age- and developmentally appropriate education” on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Consistent with that modest limitation, the law prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for the youngest children, neutrally allowing all parents, no matter their views, to introduce those sensitive topics to their children as they see fit,” the state’s lawyers wrote.

The motion to lift the stay on discovery also noted that, since Winsor’s July decision, plaintiffs have promised to curtail the amount of information they are seeking.

The motion also said the way the law is being applied “looks nothing like” the law the defendants described in court filings as being limited to “curricular standards” and not subjecting the plaintiffs to differential treatment.

The law “is affecting virtually every aspect of public education, from what materials can be displayed in classrooms to which books are available to students to whether teachers can mention a same-sex spouse or sponsor a gay student club,” the plaintiffs’ lawyers argued.

“Now that implementation of the law has begun and its sweeping impact is apparent, plaintiffs respectfully ask the court to reassess the equities of maintaining the stay of discovery at this point,” they wrote.


  1. Anonymous

    I just don’t understand how or why we have replaced learning about reading, writing, math, research, logic, and communication skills with critical race theories and lifestyles. Once our children have mastered these basic skills they can take the initiative and learn about all of these peripheral issues on their own. in fact, the hostile and undemocratic rules controlling free speach dampen a child’s ability to learn critical thinking skills. Our kids can’t spell Tallahassee and don’t know where it is located but they know all about alternative lifestyles. Throw in drug abuse and you have a child that is doomed to working at a fast-food restaurant.

    Let’s focus our education taxes on basic learning in grades 0 -12. We have fine universities where a broader perspective of educational opportunities is appropriate.

    • dmmorrison

      I don’t understand why we’ve replaced learning in our schools with right-wing political correctness. Kids are longer able to learn about our country’s past and, increasingly, its present. Why do Republicans hate kids so much?

  2. Harvey Milk

    It’s so obvious that some schools are protesting the law by creating controversy by banning “rainbow clothing.”

    The pro-LGBT school districts in Democrat strongholds are literally inventing “problems” and then claiming that LGBT people are being banned from schools.

    No. You’re not. Just stop grooming kids. Because that’s exactly what is happening when you inject sexual topics into the early grades at elementary schools.

    • dmmorrison

      The real “grooming” is by right-wing ideologues, who are making sure your kids to grow up to be ignorant, unquestioning and reliably conservative.

  3. MAGA 2.0

    This gender crap has no place in our schools. The Groomers lawsuit claims that the new law is “affecting virtually every aspect of public education” shows you how much they’ve infiltrated our public education system and can no longer. I don’t pay taxes so you can manipulate my child. I pay taxes so you can teach the basics of math, English, science, and history. Get your sexual crap out of the classroom.

    • dmmorrison

      Agreed. Crap has no place in schools, but knowledge does. Right-wingers want to censor the latter because… well, it’s not entirely clear. Because they hate blacks, gays and women? Because they’re ashamed of America’s past, let alone its present, and think covering it all up is a sound educational strategy? Or maybe they just want to be in control.

  4. Robert

    The kids can learn ALL the Crap later – and trust me, they will – from BOTH sides of the Crap table. ALL you extremists (left and right) should mind your OWN crap, leave the kids alone, and keep ALL of your extremist and gender CRAP to yourselves.

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