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August 22, 2022

Those Poor, Oppressed Groomers in Florida

NBC News fails to invoke sympathy for groomer teachers. It does, however, make them look ridiculous.

NBC News’s Out section has a new article bemoaning the plight of Florida teachers and their struggles to teach with the “restrictions” enforced under the Parental Rights in Education law as well as House Bill 7 (HB 7). The article intentionally obfuscates what these bills mean for teachers and staff in an attempt to make a claim that their rights are being trampled. This is simply not true.

The first example is the testimony of Michael Woods, a self-described “queer” special education teacher. His story is that having to get approval for all of his classroom books in order to be in compliance was too much of a chore. It was easier not to offer books in his class anymore. As a former elementary school teacher, I have questions about this claim. But I’ll come back to that.

The article also claims that HB 7, which is about individual freedom, prohibits children from learning African American history. This is absolutely not the case.

The other major claim is that different school districts in the state are using different measures to comply with the law. This is confusing and also anxiety-inducing for teachers, as they do not want to be made an example of for not complying with the two new bills.

Teacher Testimony

Let’s first start with teacher Michael Woods. He is a high school special education teacher, and an excellent one at that. He was a finalist for the William Dwyer Award, a lauded teaching prize. On the other hand, he is a self-stated LGBTQ+ activist and an outspoken critic of the Parental Rights in Education law. His number one complaint is that the bill’s language is too vague and could put teachers in the uncomfortable position of outing a child to their parents in terms of sexual identity or name/pronoun changes.

His job is affected by this bill only as it regards informing parents about “change in services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being,” with the added caveat, “School district procedures may authorize school district personnel to withhold information only for a reasonable belief that disclosure would subject the student to abuse, abandonment, or neglect.” Woods did not have to come up with new paperwork to be in compliance with the bill. He also doesn’t have to worry about indoctrination accusations because he isn’t a K-3 teacher. His only burden was needing to go through his classroom library and make sure the books complied with a checklist.

He claims he did not have time to do that over the summer. This may be true. A lot of teachers don’t really get a “break” in the summer. However, if this library is a priority for him, why wouldn’t he fill it in piecemeal as he completed the checklist throughout the year? This is a strategy that I have had to employ myself.

HB 7 and the Stop WOKE Act

HB 7, entitled “Individual Freedom,” is specifically targeted to prevent indoctrination of school employees in radical leftist ideology such as critical race theory, gender identity, and trashing virtues such as merit, excellence and hard work, freedom, and others. It also defines a person’s individual freedom. NBC’s objecting to this bill is simply another attempt to force people to bend to its will. HB 7’s accompanying bill, the Stop WOKE Act, widens the net to include people’s rights in corporations. This bill has gotten a lot of pushback from companies such as Ben & Jerry’s, Honeyfund, and other radical organizations such as Collective Concepts, a diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting group. An Obama-appointed federal judge has blocked portions of the Stop WOKE Act, claiming that it prevents free speech, citing viewpoint-based regulation of speech. Time will tell if the law is overturned.

Non Uniformity in Florida School Response

Different districts across the state of Florida have come up with different methods to be in compliance this school year. Some have made videos about what constitutes a “change in services or monitoring.” Some have created checklists of books that are not appropriate. Some districts have forms included in student information packets for parents to fill in their child’s name and nicknames (a name change by the student would prompt a new form going home to inform the parents). The most outrageous claim made by The Florida Times-Union is that “Some Duval Schools teachers say they spent their planning week peeling rainbow Safe Space stickers and posters that indicate LGBTQ allyship off their classroom windows, walls and doors ahead of students’ arrival Monday morning for their first day.” If peeling stickers took all their planning time during in-service, there were entirely too many stickers. That’s ridiculous.

Having different strategies to address new education legislation is hardly an earth-shattering situation. In fact, most districts across the states do the same thing. Frankly, this claim was so over-the-top dramatic it was laughable.

All in all, teachers who are earnestly trying to obey the Florida laws should have nothing to worry about. It’s only going to be a learning curve for the groomers.

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