TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Department of Education sent a letter to the superintendents of all 67 districts telling them they may disregard new federal guidance for Title IX. The statute has been in place since 1972, and under new guidance from President Joe Biden via executive order, protections were expanded to include blocking discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to biological sex.
Biden’s expansion of Title IX came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case to expand Title VII protections of the Civil Rights Act to include gay and transgender rights.
In Bostock v. Clayton County, Ga., a 2020 decision, conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority, saying that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation required biological sex in order to occur.
“Because discrimination on the basis of homosexuality or transgender status requires an employer to intentionally treat individual employees differently because of their sex, an employer who intentionally penalizes an employee for being homosexual or transgender also violates Title VII” of the Civil Rights Act, Gorsuch wrote.
The expansion by the federal government was directed by Biden in January 2021, in response to the Bostock decision, directing federal agencies to also prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as a result of Gorsuch’s explanation of the case’s conclusion.
Now with the new guidelines in place, the FDOE’s leadership is opposing such changes, referencing how the guidance changes administration of federal programs. Particularly at issue for the new guidance from FDOE is how the schools choose to comply with the federal regulations to receive funding for some programs, such as the free meal initiatives for low-income students.
The guidance from the federal government is having an effect on the National School Lunch Program. Starting with the coming school year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture began to direct schools that they must follow these regulations and changes in order to continue receiving funding for the school lunch program.
Thursday, new Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr., sent letters to the state’s 67 school superintendents telling them that the new guidance is not binding, and that they do not need to “modify” how they currently operate to continue receiving funding from the program.
The letter from the commissioner says “As you may know, the United States Department of Education and the United States Department of Agriculture recently issued guidance documents purporting to clarify the meaning of sex discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.”
Additionally, Diaz’s letter says, “You should not treat the USDOE or USDA guidance documents as binding or otherwise modify your practices or procedures” based on federal guidelines or documents released in light of the Bostock decision.
The letter also says that in addition to being able to disregard, in fact saying that schools “should” disregard suggestions from the Florida Department of Agriculture as related to complying with the federal guidance, Diaz wrote that “suggestions to post ‘And Justice For All’ posters in your schools” might trigger a conflict with Florida’s laws. He said in the letter that the FDOE “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.”
FDACS is the state agency that administers the National School Lunch Program for the state of Florida.
Going further, Diaz told superintendents and school boards that they do not have to “give biological males who identify as female access to female bathrooms, locker rooms, or dorms,” nor do they have to “assign biological males who identify as female to female rooms on school field trips; or to allow biological males who identify as female to compete on female sports teams.”