EDUCATION | Florida moves to ensure boys and girls enjoy restroom privacy even in private schools
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A Florida law requiring public school students and teachers to use restrooms matching their biological sex now applies to private schools and colleges as well, thanks to a state Board of Education vote on Oct. 18. In May, Florida legislators passed the Safety in Private Spaces Act, mandating that public buildings, including state schools, designate restrooms and changing rooms for either men or women exclusively or provide an individual unisex restroom. Under the expanded rule, private schools must now show compliance by April 1, and faculty or staff members who do not comply could lose their state education certification.
“A woman should not be in a locker room having to worry about someone from the opposite sex being in their locker room,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said when signing the original bill earlier this year.
Nine states, including Alabama, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, now require that people use restrooms aligning with their sex in K-12 public schools, according to the pro-LGBTQ group the Movement Advancement Project. The group lists Florida as the only state to enact such a requirement for all government buildings.
While opponents of Florida’s rule complain it will create long lines at unisex restrooms, others applauded the measure’s clarity and protections for women. “It provides a clear framework for institutions to follow, alleviating confusion for both students and staff,” Yvette Benarroch, chair of the Moms for Liberty chapter in Collier County, said during the Oct. 18 Education Board meeting.
Affordable avenue to teaching
Also in Florida, prospective teachers could now have a smoother path toward obtaining their teaching licenses. State education officials on Oct. 18 announced rules for an apprenticeship program that allows participants to be paid for their student teaching work. Earlier this year, Florida legislators passed a bill requiring the state Department of Education to institute the program as an alternative route for future teachers. (Most pathways to teacher certification involve unpaid student teaching.)
The Biden administration said in July that 21 states have launched teacher apprenticeship programs, sometimes referred to as “grow-your-own” programs since schools could recruit their own recent high school graduates as teachers. Proponents say the model, first launched in Tennessee in January 2022, could encourage teachers to stay in the field longer since recruits often end up working within their own community. —L.D.
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