Miami-Dade County’s School Board made yet another reversal in a decision that impacted sexual education for middle and high school students.
In a special meeting Thursday, the School Board voted 5-4 to approve the inclusion of a textbook that deals with health, nutrition, sexually transmitted diseases, and related topics.
The Board initially rejected it last week by a similarly narrow margin, citing the state’s parental rights’ law, which critics and LGBTQ advocates have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
“Some of the chapters are extremely troublesome,” said board member Mari Tere Rojas, who voted against the books. “I do not consider them to be age appropriate. In my opinion, they go beyond what the state standards are.”
Florida law allows parents to opt their child out of sex education lessons.
“Our current … process defends parents and their children who do not want to be exposed to this,” said Steve Gallon III, the board’s vice chair who supported the sex education textbooks. “But we cannot deny parents who want to have access for their children to this critically important information.”
School Board Chairwoman Perla Tabares Hantman changed her “no” vote from last week, this time voting in favor of adopting the textbook. Prior to the reversal, the rejection of the textbook would have left the school district’s middle and high school students without a health education curriculum, which would have violated state law, the Miami Herald reported.
The last two meetings elicited impassioned responses from dozens of parents, current and former students, and community activists, with most in support of allowing the books, titled, “Comprehensive Health Skills,” with a separate edition for middle school and high school, according to the Herald.
Of 42 speakers at last week’s meeting, 38 urged the board to accept the textbook, according to Vice Chair Steve Gallon III.
In response to the move, Orlando Gonzales, executive director of Safeguarding American Values for Everyone (SAVE), says he’s reassured by this recent decision.
“My immediate reaction to the reversal is a huge sigh and sense of relief that the right decision was made,” Gonzales said. “The vote made by the chairwoman, Perla Tabares Hantman, having her switch this vote really sets the course and curriculum for the school board on the right path.”
Still, the fight for gender and sexual orientation equality isn’t over, Gonzales said: “My concerns remain that there is a national trend for anti-LGBT Christian nationalists running for school board and getting elected and pushing these types of initiatives into our school districts, which is making them highly discriminatory, very Christian-centric, and very much in line with people like Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, which is more hurtful than they are helpful in terms of freedom and democracy.”
The number of students, parents, and activists that made their voices heard at these meetings give Gonzales hope, though.
“I hope that that translates into election day on August 23 and also in November,” Gonzales said. “We need to be mindful of the kind of leaders we elect to all levels of government, and that includes school boards.”