Lawsuit alleges DCPS stopped referring students to local LGBTQ+ support center due to new state law

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Duval County Public Schools is named in a new lawsuit challenging the district’s actions taken as a result of Florida’s new Parental Rights in Education Law, or the “Don’t Say Gay” law, as its opponents call it.

The state’s new law prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3 and limits that instruction to “age-appropriate levels” thereafter.

The district is accused of taking specific actions against the groups that argue and violate the First and 14th Amendments rights of students.

The most apparent is that the district’s LQBTQ++ support guide was reduced from 37 pages down to just eight.

“Because of the fact of the fear that HB 1557, you know, creates,” said Paul Castillo, an attorney with Lambda Legal who is representing plaintiffs in the case.

The main claim, though, relates to the district’s relationship with a local LQBTQ+ support center.

CenterLink, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, is an organization partnered with Jacksonville-based JASMYN.

It’s an LQBTQ+ support center that contracts with the school district to provide training and supports for LQBTQ+ students.

The suit alleges that since the law took effect, DCPS has drastically reduced communication with the center and stopped referring students there for counseling.

“That is problematic both for not only the centers and CenterLink, but more importantly for the students who need these critical resources in order to be able to access the materials, the support and feel like they’re welcomed in school,” said Castillo.

Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated Wednesday that the law is aimed at preventing the indoctrination of students.

“This will be for elementary school kids where they’re instructed to tell them, well you may have been born a boy, that may have been what you said but maybe you’re really a girl. That’s wrong,” said DeSantis.

But Castillo argues ambiguity in the law not only impacts what teachers teach, but what students and parents can discuss.

He specifically points out the lack of a definition of “third parties,” which under the law are also barred from teaching the prohibited subjects.

“The third-party provision within the law is sweeping and affects any person that steps foot on the campus,” said Castillo.

DCPS didn’t respond directly to the claims made in the suit when we asked for comment.

“The district will always take steps necessary to comply with Florida laws. Any further district response will come within the context of the judicial proceedings,” wrote DCPS spokesperson Sonya Duke-Bolden in an emailed statement.

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