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Students at Broward school stage walkout after staff removals over transgender athlete

Broward Schools Superintendent Peter Licata, center, talks to Monarch High School’s principal James Cecil, left, as students file into the building for the first day of school in Broward County.
Jose A. Iglesias
/
Miami Herald
Broward Schools Superintendent Peter Licata, center, talks to Monarch High School’s principal James Cecil, left, as students file into the building for the first day of school in Broward County.

Hundreds of students staged a walkout at a Broward school on Tuesday after their principal and four staff members were removed over allegations that a transgender student was allowed to play on the girls' volleyball team.

Currently, a state law — called the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act — prohibits transgender students from playing on girls’ sports teams.

The demonstration at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek, came the day after district officials announced the five employees would be reassigned to non-school sites "pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations of improper student participation in sports".

READ MORE: As schools lose students, Broward's superintendent grapples with possibility of closures

“That’s not an indication of discipline," Broward County Schools Superintendent Peter Licata said at a press conference Tuesday morning. "It’s an indication that we want to make sure that when we investigate, it’s done properly and appropriately.

"Again, we want to make sure we do this right. Nobody is guilty of anything at this point, that’s what an investigation is for.”

Monarch Principal James Cecil along with an assistant principal, athletic director, temporary athletic director and an information management technician at the school will be working at different locations for the time being, Licata said.

Monarch High School students conduct a walkout on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 after the principal, James Cecil, and other staff members were removed from their positions pending an investigation. The reassignments occurred because a female transgender student had been playing volleyball at the school in Coconut Creek, Florida.
D.A. Varela
/
Miami Herald
Monarch High School students conduct a walkout on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 after the principal, James Cecil, and other staff members were removed from their positions pending an investigation. The reassignments occurred because a female transgender student had been playing volleyball at the school in Coconut Creek, Florida.

In response, students at Monarch High School walked out of classes and poured onto the football field around noon on Tuesday, according to the Miami Herald.

During the peaceful 30-minute demonstration, students chanted messages like “Let Her Play,” “Trans Rights are Human Rights” and “Free Cecil Now” in support of their classmate and principal, the newspaper reported.

The district's decision has drawn questions from the president of the county's teachers union — and criticism from a local LGBTQ community leader.

"We are appalled by Broward Schools’ response. The reassignment of faculty is a measure typically reserved for the gravest of infractions. In this case, it is not only an overreaction but also a glaring misjudgment," reads a statement from Scott Galvin, executive director of Safe Schools South Florida.

"Facilitating a young person’s participation in school activities, particularly in sports, is a commendable act that fosters inclusivity and acceptance, not one that warrants punitive measures."

Tallahassee officials notified

Licata said BCPS was alerted about the player in a call from a "constituent" last week. The reassignments were initially announced on Nov. 27, on the return from Thanksgiving break.

“Listen, our first priority are students. No matter what, it’s students. And making sure that they have the support ... they’re also protected and that we are following the laws to do that," Licata added.

He confirmed that BCPS has also notified Tallahassee officials about the plans to investigate Monarch staff members.

According to the Miami Herald, Moira Sweeting-Miller, the school’s assistant principal, will serve as interim principal while the investigation takes place.

It’s currently unclear whether the staff members being investigated knew about the state law or whether the student will be allowed to play on the volleyball team next year.

The Monarch Girls Volleyball team Instagram account posted in support of their teammate on Tuesday, featuring photos of the walkout and the message "Protect Trans Kids!"

READ MORE: The first day of school for Broward students - and the district's new superintendent

Julia Cooper reports on all things Florida Keys and South Dade for WLRN.
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