ORLANDO, Fla. — Orange County Public Schools is among several schools in the state getting in line with an expansion to the controversial Parental Rights in Education law.
The law requires school employees to address students by the pronoun that corresponds with the child’s biological sex at birth.
The change particularly affects transgender students who go by different pronouns and names than what was given to them at birth. However, it also affects students who simply go by nicknames other than their legal names.
Several Orange County Schools had events Tuesday where parents and students could meet teachers ahead of the school year Thursday.
Many parents tell Channel 9 they were just learning about the new rules that go as far as requiring parents to list and sign off on what names to call their child if it’s not their legal name.
For example, if your child’s legal name is Robert but he goes by Rob, now, parents will have to authorize the school district to use their child’s nickname.
Orange County isn’t the only school district doing this.
Seminole County is also requiring parents to log into Skyward Family Access to list off approved names to call their child if it’s not their legal name. The School District noted on the site that if parents don’t authorize their student’s name or nickname be used, the students will be called only by their legal name on their birth certificate.
“If it’s their nickname, or what not, you know, as long as they respond, and they know they’re being, you know, spoken to I don’t think that’s really a big deal,’ said Sofia Diaz.
Orange County parent Sofia Diaz says her daughter has gone by Rosie her whole life-- instead of her legal name, Rosa.
“I think it’s kind of silly, because everybody calls her Rosie all the time. So I don’t understand what the big deal is about that,” Diaz said about the rules.
Now, Diaz will be one of the several parents filling out permission slips-- spelling out each “approved” name or nickname their child is able to go by in the classroom.
“If I want to call myself, Sally or Jed, or, you know, they or them, it’s not the government’s business,” said Amy Hammond, a parent of a Boone High School student.
The rules particularly affect transgender students.
Teachers can’t ask students what their preferred pronouns are. If a teacher does ask, it’s considered a violation of the principles of professional conduct, meaning teachers can face punishment up to their education license being revoked.
Parents are divided on whether pronouns should be asked in school.
“We don’t need government to step in and, penalize teachers for respectfully calling somebody a preferred name, whatever that name is,” Hammond said.
“I feel like with the younger kids, that might be a little bit confusing to them. I feel like they’re trying to come into their own as it is, and asking them stuff like that,” said Jessica Johns. However, Johns said state legislators and school administrators are “focusing on the wrong stuff” instead of educating students.
Channel 9 also spoke to students leaving the event off camera. Many said schools are intended to be a place where students can learn. One student said, “it shouldn’t be a place where students are told who they can and cannot be.”
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