PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — With about eight days before the start of school in Charlotte County, the district's board members will finalize several controversial policies put into place by state lawmakers and signed off by the governor.
Tuesday morning, school board members are expected to make some final approvals to keep up with changing state laws.
The school board faces dozens of pages of student instruction that need to be discussed — so much so, that they’re on double duty with a workshop that starts at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, plus a school board meeting at 5:30 p.m.
Among many other topics, the board is also expected to discuss the new “Parental Rights in Education“ law, which bans public school teachers in Florida from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity.
Draft language in the district "Student Progression Plan" (PDF) incorporates the changes made in the law, and suggests students in grades 6-12 would be expected to be taught "awareness of the benefits of sexual abstinence as the expected standard and the consequences of teenage pregnancy."
Charlotte County School District Spokesperson, Michael Riley gave Fox 4 this statement when asked about abstinence awareness.
"We are not adding abstinence awareness in the SPP. This language already exists in our SPP and board policy... The language referring to abstinence is not new – it is simply finding a home later in the section of Required Instruction."
Critics have denounced it as the "Don't Say Gay" law; Gov. Ron DeSantis and supporters have christened it the "Stop WOKE Act."
Beyond the discussion of gender and sexuality, the legislation also bans instruction of what is known as Critical Race Theory, which Learning for Justice describes as "a school of thought that explores and critiques American history, society and institutions of power ... from a race-based perspective."
A portion of the law reads as follows:
Examples of theories that distort historical events and are inconsistent with State Board approved standards include the denial or minimization of the Holocaust, and the teaching of Critical Race Theory, meaning the theory that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons.
The curriculum would include African-American history, including pre-slavery history. The district's plan includes the assertion that "Students shall develop an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism and stereotyping on individual freedoms."
Instruction would also maintain that "no person is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously, solely by virtue of his or her race or sex" and that "no race is inherently superior to another race."
According to the language drafted by the county school distruct, school leadership will be responsible for overseeing compliance with the bill, including selection of textbooks made available to students, as well as library materials. A list of available materials is also expected to be posted online.
The law went into effect July1, and has been the focus of legal action by, among other groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center.
School officials will also tackle the Student Progression Plan for elementary, middle school, and high school students.
That includes new state standards for the F.A.S.T., Florida’s new testing model that Gov. Ron DeSantis introduced in March for all public schools.
The F.A.S.T. will be replacing the FSA testing model. The board will discuss the implementation of F.A.S.T. in the classroom and will talk about how test scores will be used to track student achievement throughout the year.
Another topic of discussion is B.E.S.T. standards, which are Florida's new standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics.
This has been a common theme for districts across the state.
Classes in Charlotte County and many other Southwest Florida schools will begin Wednesday.