Local school districts work to adapt to Florida’s new laws

The new school year comes with some changes brought on by new state laws.

One such law is the Parental Rights in Education Act, commonly referred to by critics as “Don’t say gay.”

Clinton McCracken, president of Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, said the new law has placed stress on teachers.

“They’re anxious ... there were some misunderstandings in the guidance,” he told Channel 9′s Christy Turner.

READ: Central Florida students return to the classroom

Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Maria Vazquez said the district is working to clear up confusion.

“Our goal is to ensure that we are communicating clearly and effectively with our employees and our families,” Vazquez explained.

The Florida law now bans instruction on gender and sexual orientation for kindergarten through third grade.

“We will be in full compliance,” Vazquez added.

In fact, OCPS released a districtwide letter with guidelines based on the law.

It says if a student shares personal information with a teacher, the teacher is required to encourage that child to talk with their parents.

“We will also let them know that if they share information with us, and their parent asks, that we will need to disclose [that information].”

The letter states that employees may wear LGBTQ-friendly clothing and put a picture of their same-sex spouse on their desk.

READ: Incoming OCPS superintendent shares priorities, challenges for district

McCracken, who is gay, said he felt isolated growing up.

“When you feel invisible ... It’s very dangerous.”

Another bill that Gov. DeSantis signed into law was the “Stop WOKE Act” to prevent critical race theory in classrooms.

McCracken said it was never part of the curriculum.

“We are talking about racism when that’s appropriate. Students need to know what that is,” McCracken said.

Vazquez urges parents with questions or concerns to reach out to their child’s school.

“This is an opportunity for us to work closely with parents to ensure their children are being educated in an environment that is safe and nurturing.”

READ: Marion County deputies train new gun-sniffing dog to help with school security

Eyewitness News reached out to other Central Florida school districts to see how they’re implementing the Parental Rights in Education law.

Seminole County Public Schools said that parents can opt out of student health services.

The School District of Osceola County told WFTV that teachers must tell principals about any instruction that might be considered controversial.

In Brevard and Volusia counties, district officials said that they will follow the law as written and do not have separate guidelines.

Photos: Central Florida students head back to school