Byron Donalds weighs in against transgender bathroom access
Image via Colin Hackley.

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The Congressman joins state lawmakers pressuring Lee County Schools on LGBTQ policy.

U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds has urged the Lee County School Board to back off an interpretation of federal law on transgender policy.

That comes after hundreds of individuals showed up at a Lee County School Board meeting last week angry with current policy.

NBC-2 reports the crowd was angry about a best practices poster in schools saying students should use the bathroom and locker facilities matching their gender identity.

“I stand for the rights of all and against bullying and discrimination,” Donalds writes. “However, I feel it is essential to consider the more significant impact policies have on the community. There are a host of Local and Federal policies already in place that protect Lee County students. The addition of the Equality Florida graphic in the Student Code of Conduct is wholly unnecessary and inserts hyper-partisan propaganda in the name of ‘equality.’”

The posters were developed with Equality Florida, and the advocacy group maintains school districts have an obligation to protect all students from discrimination.

“All school districts in Florida have a legal obligation to ensure every student is provided a safe school environment where they can learn and thrive,” said Jon Harris Mauer, Equality Florida’s public policy director. “Equality Florida is proud to be resource to school districts as they craft their own policies to fully meet this obligation. For 25 years we have worked to ensure that LGBTQ students are supported in a manner consistent with established nationally recognized best practices.”

But Donalds said Equality Florida is delivering a “third-party agenda” and pressed the district to “reconsider your federal law interpretation to allow gender-fluid bath and locker rooms.”

The Naples Republican’s letter reads similar to one sent by Lee County Legislative Delegation chair Spencer Roach.

Donalds acknowledges its ultimately a School Board decision what policies govern students in schools, but said his office received a number of phone calls about the practices.

He notably referencing legislation proposed in the Florida Legislature this year, but seems to present an inaccurate report on the progress of a bill in the Senate.

“During the recent legislative session in Tallahassee, the Florida House passed HB1475 with the companion bill, SB2012, on its way to becoming a law and would be in direct conflict with the language presented in the Lee County School District’s Student Code of Conduct.”

The House did pass a bill that would prohibit transgender girls from playing on girls sports team in schools, and that covered locker room policy. But the Senate bill, which did allow some transgender students after a medical transition to participate in girls sports, stalled. Sen. Kelli Stargel signified the bill likely won’t return in the last week of Session.

“in a time-limited environment, I don’t know that we will have sufficient time to revisit SB 2012 this session,” she told press.

Donalds suggested the School Board needs to avoid the distraction of this policy.

“According to the Florida Department of Education’s 2019-2020 ‘School Environmental Safety Incident Report’ the vast majority of incidents in Lee County schools are unrelated to the LGBTQ community,” Donalds wrote. “Perhaps, it would behoove the board to direct their attention to where actual issues lay.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]



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