Story at a glance
- Rep. Nikema Williams (D-Ga.) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) have offered legislation called the Abolition Amendment.
- The legislation from Williams and Merkley would amend the 13th Amendment to eliminate “the slavery clause.”
- As part of the midterm elections, voters in Tennessee, Alabama, Oregon and Vermont eliminated language allowing involuntary servitude in prisons.
Florida’s Education Department in a memo sent Thursday to school leaders across the state said recent guidance from the Biden administration to expand Title IX protections for transgender students should be ignored, citing safety concerns and suggesting the guidance may violate Florida law.
Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. in a memo addressed to state superintendents, school boards, private school owners and charter school governing boards, said the federal guidance was non-binding and “should not be treated as governing law.”
“The Department will not stand idly by as federal agencies attempt to impose a sexual ideology on Florida schools that risk the health, safety, and welfare of Florida students,” Diaz wrote in the memo dated July 28.
In June, the Biden administration announced a number of proposed changes to Title IX, including expanding protections for transgender students.
The changes, the Department of Education said, “would make clear that preventing someone from participating in school programs and activities consistent with their gender identity would cause harm in violation of Title IX.”
The department specified that there would be some exceptions to that provision. Plans to address the eligibility of transgender students to participate in school sports are still in the works.
On Thursday, Diaz told Florida school officials that they are not required to give transgender students access to facilities like restrooms, locker rooms or dormitories consistent with their gender identity or allow transgender women and girls to compete on girls’ sports teams.
“To the extent that you do any of these things, you jeopardize the safety and wellbeing of Florida students and risk violating Florida law,” Diaz wrote in the memo. A state law enacted last year bars transgender women and girls from participating in school athletics.
Florida is not known for its LGBTQ+ allyship, and state lawmakers earlier this year clashed for months over legislation known to its critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. That measure, officially titled the Parental Rights in Education bill, was signed into law in March by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has vowed to fight against the promotion of “woke gender ideology” in schools.
Under the law, public school teachers through high school are limited in how they may address topics including sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom. The measure has been criticized by top education officials including Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, who in a March statement called the bill “hateful.”
Diaz, who was appointed by the state Board of Education to serve as Education Commissioner in April, argued in favor of the measure while serving in the Senate.
Following the June Title IX announcement, Diaz tweeted that the Biden administration is “weaponizing” the federal civil rights law to “push their anti-science, woke insanity on America’s schoolchildren.”
“Make no mistake,” Diaz wrote, “Florida schools will continue to provide high-quality, unbiased education — not indoctrination.”