The Florida Times-Union | By Emily Bloch | April 26, 2022
A resolution introduced by Duval County School Board Member Charlotte Joyce on Tuesday aims to support Florida’s polarizing Parental Rights in Education Bill — known by critics as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill — as well as to disapprove of the district’s current LGBTQ Support Guide and thank Gov. Ron DeSantis for his work.
“Be it Resolved that the Duval County School Board … unequivocally supports the Parental Rights in Education bill,” the resolution said, adding that it would also thank DeSantis and the Florida Legislature “for their leadership in defending parents’ rights to exercise authority over their children and to teach their children their values, morals, and beliefs.”
The School Board is set to vote on the resolution at next week’s meeting on May 3 at 6 p.m.
The gesture comes during a nationwide push for GOP representation within school boards. Reports show school board races across the country are becoming more politicized and competitive amid a period of culture wars. Topics like COVID-19 response, critical race theory and LGBTQ issues are at the forefront of the discussions.
Joyce is a former educator who has been a School Board member since 2018. She is running unopposed for re-election in District 6, which stretches from Jacksonville’s Westside all the way to the riverfront areas in Riverside, Avondale and Ortega.
To date, she has raised nearly $10,000 in campaign contributions, records show. Her largest campaign donor as of publication time is the Floridians for Conservative Values group, which gave $1,000.
School board races in Jacksonville are non-partisan, but Joyce — who is registered as a Republican according to public voting records — participates in partisan events regularly. On Monday, one day before the School Board takes up her resolution, she is serving as the guest speaker at the Greater Arlington Republican Club’s monthly meeting.
“Charlotte is our lone strong conservative advocate on our school board and a champion of school choice,” the group’s Facebook event page says of her speaking engagement. “We look forward to hearing her speak!”
According to the resolution, Joyce wants the school district to modify portions of the school district’s LGBTQ+ Support Guide, which states “it is never appropriate to divulge the sexual orientation of a student to a parent” and supports letting students request using bathrooms that align with their gender identity. While language in the Parental Rights in Education bill is vague, it alludes to parents being involved in discussions regarding how a student’s identity is viewed on campus.
The school district’s most recent LGBTQ+ Support Guide was not immediately available upon request because, as of last week, it was being reviewed by the district’s legal aides, the Office of General Counsel, according to school district spokesman Tracy Pierce.
A previously published version of the guide from 2019 said school administrators should meet with students requesting accommodations to develop a plan and work to secure an appropriate bathroom or locker room space for the student making the request.
By law, the district is already required to implement the Parental Rights in Education Act.
“We will follow the direction of the Florida Department of Education and advice of our legal counsel in developing procedures and training to ensure we are in compliance,” Pierce said ahead of DeSantis signing the bill into law.
Duval board has been silent on new law to this point
Joyce’s resolution marks one of the only statements — in favor or against — from the School Board regarding the new law that impacts LGBTQ students in primary grades and beyond.
Duval Schools has been silent as other school districts push back against the law. Some school districts across Florida — including Broward and Palm Beach — published statements in opposition of the law.
Duval County Public Schools never issued an official statement against the policy, to the chagrin of some parents and educators.
“It is the district’s practice to remain focused on our operations and not respond publicly to legislative issues that emerge during session,” Pierce said. “We remain committed to our policies which protect our employees, students, and anyone associated with the district from discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, or retaliation. We prohibit discrimination based upon race, color, gender, age, religion, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, political or religious beliefs, national or ethnic origin, pregnancy, genetic information, and veteran status.”
School Board member Elizabeth Andersen spoke against the law on Twitter. She is also up for re-election this year.