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The South Florida Roundup

The Don't Say Gay Bill, Elections in South Florida and the Firing of a Police Chief

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What does Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay Bill” mean in the classroom? Elections in Broward and Palm Beach Counties and the firing of Fort Lauderdale’s police chief.

The Parental Rights in Education Bill — informally known as the Don’t Say Gay Bill — is on its way to Gov. Ron DeSantis after getting final approval in the Florida Senate.

If signed into law, the bill would limit the discussions held in certain school grades about gender identity and sexual orientation. The bill bans lessons for kindergarten through third graders that are not “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."

The bill is explicit about banning lessons that pertain to gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten to third grade, even though these discussions aren’t in approved curriculum.

Ana Ceballos, the Tallahassee reporter for the Miami Herald said that Governor DeSantis has shown that he is doubling down on the issue and has made it pretty clear that he fully supports the bill.

Supporters of the legislation say it protects children from inappropriate teaching material while also giving parents more rights in the school system. Opponents say the bill goes farther than third grade and can have a chilling effect on school discussions until high school graduation.

One of the biggest concerns with this bill is the potential chilling effect that may affect discussions when kids bring up LGBTQ+ families during lessons approved by Florida curriculum, like family tree assignments.

Ceballos said that these assignments and situations would be allowed according to legislators. If students are bringing this up and a discussion led by students happens, then that is okay.

“What they don’t want is teachers coming in and having a lesson plan talking about transgender individuals or sexual orientation or gender identity in general,” she said.

Another component of the bill is the power it gives parents, as it allows parents to sue schools and districts if they suspect teachers and schools are not following the bill and if they feel they aren’t being properly heard.

Ceballos said this is part of a broader effort by Governor DeSantis who wants parents to be able to sue districts if they were forced to wear masks, or if their kids were being taught something considered inappropriate.

“They are trying to give parents these enforcement mechanism tools,” she said.

She also said the law contains new requirements that would tell the Department of Education that by January 2023 they would have to start updating and reviewing teacher protocols and the standards for how the bill would be implemented.

South Florida Special Elections and a Congressional Hopeful

There was an Election Day in parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties, while a familiar name got a jump start to succeed Congressman Ted Deutch on Capitol Hill.

Two new state lawmakers were chosen just as the regular Legislative session comes to an end. The two seats — one in the Florida House and one in the state Senate — were vacant.

Florida law requires current officeholders to resign from their current offices to run for another office. When Alcee Hastings died in office last year, two lawmakers resigned to run for the congressional seat. And that left two seats empty in the state Legislature.

Jervonte Edmonds was elected in Palm Beach County to the House. And Former Broward County Public School Board Chair Rosalind Osgood won a state senate seat.

Senator-elect Osgood said this is refreshing for her, because building relationships is important to her and she believes they are vital to impacting the lives of individuals across party lines.

When it comes to working with Governor DeSantis and the GOP supermajority, she hopes her school board experience and perspective will shine through.

“We live in a democracy, I’m pro-democracy,” she said. “So I believe in inclusiveness and I believe in conversations that will help the betterment of all of the people.”

She aims to be on the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee. She believes that educating the citizens and the public in low-income communities is important, especially with home insurance rates rising.

Anthony Man, the Sun Sentinel’s South Florida political writer, said that Senator-elect Osgood has made it clear to him that she wants to go to Tallahassee to get things done in the Republican-controlled legislature.

On the national congressional side, Broward County Commissioner Jared Moskowitz has a ton of support for taking Congressman Ted Deutch’s seat.

He has announced that he will be running for the empty seat, and Man said his support comes from various sources. He is well-liked among Democrats, can raise a lot of money, and he has connections stemming from his late father’s time involved in politics.

Even though he is quickly becoming an early frontrunner in the race, Man believes this particular race for Deutch’s seat isn’t going to be fueled by particular issues since the area leans Democratic.

“For example, if Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis ends up running, you could end up having a group of people that are more east-coast coastal, as opposed to people who are more Northwest Broward county,” he said.

Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Fired

Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Larry Scirotto was fired this month after just half a year on the job. He has been accused of following a stringent diversity policy, hiring and promoting others based solely on their minoritystatus.

A city report cited 21 witnesses of Scirotto’s hiring practices, stating that nearly every witness was dissatisfied with his approach to promotions.

Scirotto has denied hiring and promoting simply based on minority status. He says the minority candidates he promoted deserved to be promoted.

Shortly after being hired, Scirotto promoted 15 officers. Nine of them were white men, and the other six were minorities based on ethnicity or gender. Four officers who were not promoted — three men and one woman — filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

A week ago, a separate city report accused Scirotto of working a second job while on the clock as police chief. Scirotto worked as a college basketball referee. He says he got that work okayed and did not double dip.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis believes that the decision to fire Scirotto was a hasty one. He wants to address this in the next city meeting and wants to give the commissioners a chance to all weigh in.

“The decision I think was based on information that I feel was lacking in completeness,” he said. “I think the city manager was provided data and assumptions that I think were unfair.”

He thinks Scirotto was “just doing his job.”

There is an option that returns Scirotto as chief of police in Fort Lauderdale, but Mayor Trantalis said that all depends on the city manager.

Mayor Trantalis believes that Scirotto was doing what he thought was in the best interest of the department and the community.

“We have a great police department, but there are dissident elements that were doing their best to try to undermine his authority.”

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Natu Tweh is producer of The Florida Roundup and The South Florida Roundup at WLRN.