As attacks continue against transgender athletes, Broward County schools have taken a stance: let them play.
On June 15, the Broward County School Board signed a proclamation in opposition to the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“Participating in sports provides critical life lessons like teamwork, dedication, and leadership that should be available to all youth including transgender youth,” according to the proclamation, which was brought forward by board member Sarah Leonardi.
Earlier in the meeting, critics of the proclamation spoke during public comments.
“You’re opposing a law that was passed by the state of Florida House, Senate and then signed by the governor, the same legislative body that represents 11 million voters, many of which are parents,” said Darlene Swaffar, who is running for Congress to represent Florida District 22. “What does the Broward County School Board do? They want to override the Florida legislature, they want to override Florida state law.
“You want to oppose fairness. Who opposes fairness? I’ll tell you who opposes fairness. The Broward County School Board does.”
With a Bible in hand, activist Chris Nelson spoke before the board asking why the mask mandate had not been lifted in schools, then pivoted to his thoughts on the proclamation.
“You’re doing this proclamation for boys to participate in girls’ sports? That is your No. 1 concern, that a senior in high school that’s male can go in the same bathroom as a freshman who’s female? That is disgusting,” he said. “And I call on the parents right now, I call on the parents and I call on the students, be Martin Luther King, be Rosa Parks, take off your mask and if a teacher yells at you, walk out.”
He then took off his mask and left the chambers.
When the proclamation was discussed by the board later in the evening, Wilton Manors activist Michael Emanuel Rajner spoke in support of it.
“This government and legislature have been hellbent on its assault against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, but most importantly they have been targeting with using whatever wackadoodle science that they are using to target transgender young females and it’s absolutely outrageous,” he said.
Leonardi also addressed the comments.
“I generally subscribe to the belief that I should not respond to craziness, but today is just not that day,” she said. “When people come in here and use words like ‘disgusting’ to refer to trans children and children, I’m going to point out the insanity and bigotry and ignorance of the things that they said.
“What I find particularly interesting is that several of those individuals are running for Congress, but they clearly don’t understand how a proclamation works. It does not override the legislature or the governor, so I would think before running for Congress and coming in here and saying inaccurate things, they should do some research.”
Some board members were concerned if the board was allowed to oppose the law without causing legal conflicts. Marylin Batista, interim general counsel for the school board, confirmed that it was simply the board stating its opinion.
The Fort Lauderdale City Commission passed a proclamation of its own against the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, but one commissioner voted against it and a second was not present during voting. Later, a local trans woman shared her disappointment in the two commissioners, which resulted in Vice Mayor Heather Moraitis doubling down on her views that trans women have physical advantages over people born biologically female.