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Rocky Hanna apologizes to the school board for comments on a bill that's angered LGBTQ advocates

A man with a red shit speaks at a podium. Behind him, are two photos of children
Patrick Sternad
WFSU Public Media
Superintendent of Schools Rocky Hanna holds a press conference at the Leon County School District Office this Monday afternoon to address concerns over changing mask mandates and policies in the wake of a surge in cases brought on by the delta variant of COVID-19.

Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna recently apologized--kind of--after calling a bill that bans teaching gender identity and sexual orientation to children in lower primary grades the “Don’t Say Gay" bill which Republicans argue is a mischaracterization.

Hanna’s use of the moniker at an earlier meeting led Priscilla West and other members of the local chapter of Moms for Liberty to read the seven-page bill aloud during Tuesday’s school board meeting.

“This has been an effective smear campaign and we have to set the record straight," she said. "This does not prevent a teacher from acknowledging all family structures.”

Critics of the proposal have argued it could silence LGBTQ kids and their families because of the language around gender identity and sexual orientation, and the state's leading LGBTQ advocacy group, Equality Florida, has said it will likely sue when the bill is signed into law.

Hanna apologized to the school board for having to listen to the bill being read aloud.

“I’m sorry I put you all through that. It won’t happen again," he said.

The bill’s formal title is called "Parental Rights in Education" and it also requires school districts to inform parents about any changes to their child’s physical or mental health. Districts can be sued for withholding such information and that's led to other concerns—such as children being outed to unsupportive parents.

Read More Here: How Leon Schools ended up in the middle of a debate over how to deal with LGBTQ students

The proposal was partially inspired by a situation in Leon where a school did not notify a parent of their child’s request to use different gender pronouns, though the parent did tell the school the child was experiencing some gender identity concerns. The issue resulted in a lawsuit against the Leon County School District which is ongoing.

The bill has also sparked a political battle between Gov. Ron DeSantis and Disney. The company suspended political donations in Florida after coming under fire for giving money to state Republicans who voted for the bill.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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