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The Leon School District updates its LGBTQ guide for the second time in 12 months

LGBTQ flags fly in London's Hyde Park on July 24, 2021.
Alberto Pezzali
LGBTQ flags fly in London's Hyde Park on July 24, 2021.

The Leon County School Board recently approved updates to its LGBTQ Inclusive Guide. The guide is meant for school personnel and offers a policy on how to accommodate LGBTQ students.

The newest changes include revisions that bring the district’s policies in line with a parental rights law passed last year. The changes approved by the school board last week mark the second time in 12 months that the documents have undergone revision.

This latest re-work of the guide was done after the State Board of Education told the district in November that its first round of modifications—which the Leon School Board last summer -- still did not comply with state law.

The guide now specifies that a student’s gender identity or sexual orientation must be shared with parents. It also removed wording that said the right to privacy extends to students at school and updated the district’s bathroom policy.

Under the newest iteration of the guide, bathroom use is determined by a student’s biological sex at birth, with accommodations for single-stall and sex-neutral bathroom use.

“We’re in the business of protecting every kid. What this guide did is it recognized that we’re in the interest of protecting every kid, but some need extra protection,” said Leon school board member Rosanne Wood. She said the guide is a compromise between student and parent input, and the recent changes in state law. Under the guide, students will only be allowed to compete in sports teams consistent with their biological sex at birth. The guide passed unanimously.

The district began modifying the guide more than a year ago in response to a federal lawsuit from a parent. January Littejohn accused Leon County Schools of withholding information regarding her child. The district noted Littlejohn told teachers to use the name and pronouns her child preferred, but Littlejohn says she was caught off guard when her child came home from school and told her that school officials asked what bathroom the child wanted to use.

A federal judge recently dismissed the case, and it is now being appealed.

The fight between Littlejohn and the district partly inspired last year’s law that, among other things, states schools cannot make decisions regarding a student’s health and well-being without consulting with parents and limits discussion of gender and sexual identity in grades Kindergarten through 3rd. Critics have called it the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Casey Chapter is a graduate student at Florida State University studying Public Interest Media & Communication. She got her start in journalism at the FSView & Florida Flambeau, where she served as a reporter, News Editor, and eventually Managing Editor. She has previously reported on COVID-19 and K-12 education for the Tallahassee Democrat, and currently serves as the Managing Editor of the Florida Student News Watch, a journalism program that aims to get students and recent graduates' work published with a focus on environmental reporting.