PARENTS SUPPORT CONTROVERSIAL PARENTAL RIGHTS BILLS AT SCHOOL BOARD MEETING

Seven Florida Keys parents on April 12 put the county school board and administration on notice that they will be monitoring the school district’s implementation of two new education bills that will become law on July 1.

Representing the Keys chapter of Moms for Liberty, Tia Kollars told the board that she is a “big proponent” of Gov. Ron DeSantis and the two bills, including the Parental Rights in Education bill, which its critics nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Kollars and others also spoke in support of the bill that requires school districts to audit all instructional materials available to students, and to allow parents to object to any of those materials.

“I’m excited to see how the district handles this monumental task by July,” Kollars said. “Our first step is to audit all schools to see where we stand in each location. Schools often interpret policies differently and individual school administrators make different decisions, often with no oversight. We need to ensure that teachers aren’t sharing personal opinions. We need someone watching all the schools to avoid lawsuits.”

The Parental Rights in Education bill does not ban the word “gay,” and the word gay does not appear in the bill text. Instead, the bill bans “classroom disscussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.” It allows parents to sue a school district for violating the bill.

Another speaker criticized the school district for airing CNN10, a news program targeting middle school students, during homeroom each morning.

“Are you just taking the word of CNN 10 that it’s age appropriate?” the speaker asked the board. “On March 30, there was a selection of subjects that ranged from the war in Ukraine to a wardrobe malfunction of Katy Perry. The nature of the malfunction was a rip in the derriere of her extremely tight pants.”

The speaker’s phone call was then disconnected and attempts to reconnect were unsuccessful.

Another speaker told the board “the bills are wonderful because they address a real issue.” She praised the new transparency rules that “allow parents to make choices about whether they’re comfortable having their child attend public school at all. Now is a very tumultuous time and parents don’t trust schools.”

Multiple speakers suggested the Monroe County School District consider assembling school-based committees with parental advisers and watchdogs.

Following the public comment period, board member Andy Griffiths told his colleagues, “I’m sensing in this, my 30th year on the school board, that we’ve got a group forming that’s very interested in what we’re doing. They don’t always have their facts right because they don’t always know much about what we do, but we’d better listen to them, because this is a movement that’s starting Keyswide. I think this is an opportunity for us.”

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.