School Board rejects LGBTQ+ History Month as casualty of ‘Don’t Say Gay’

After about six hours of emotional public commentary and discussion among the Miami-Dade School Board members, the decision was made not to recognize October as LGBTQ History Month, as they had in 2021.

A non-academic, mostly symbolic item that passed last year 7-1, failed this year 8-1, revealing a seismic shift in policy driven by the state’s sweeping swing to the far right.

Even the School Board members who would normally support such a measure (read: Democrats) voted against LGBTQ+ History Month because, they said, it could be in conflict with the new Parental Rights in Education law, also called the “Don’t Say Gay” law, passed this year by the state legislature. It prohibits classroom instruction of sexual orientation or gender identity for students in kindergarten through third grade.

“The difference from last year to this year is the law,” said Vice Chair Steve Gallon, who has a gay sibling. He said his personal feelings haven’t changed, but he felt that the measure “runs afoul of the law,” he said.

There was another difference: This year’s LGBTQ+ History Month approval would also encourage teachers in 12th grade to teach the Supreme Court cases dealing with gay marriage and transgender rights.

Member Lucia Baez-Geller, a teacher elected in 2020 who sponsored the item — and was the only one who voted for it — tried to assure her colleagues that the recognition would not be in conflict with the “Don’t Say” law. Seniors could opt out of the Supreme Court lessons, she said, and the rest of it was not instructional. She even moved to amend the motion so that it would read to be in compliance with the Parental Rights law, but that motion failed also.

Member Marta Perez — who was ousted last month by a candidate that was backed and funded by Team DeSantis — said she did not like these “social items” and thought the board members should stop bringing agenda items that “have nothing to do with reading, writing and arithmatic.”

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Ladra is not sure if she realized how ridiculous she sounded. We encourage schools to go above and beyond reading, writing and arithmatic, which everyone knows are not enough to compete these days. And we celebrate Hispanic Heritage and Black History months, among others — like Anti Bullying Month.

The commentary was passionate, emotional and, often, vitriolic.

One gay man wore a pink triangle like the Nazis in Germany forced gays to wear in the 1930s. Almost 100 years ago. Many people talked about needing children to feel safe and included. One former student said he used the f-word when he was in high school and regrets his treatment of the LGBTQ community, adding that he may have acted differently if there had been more awareness and education.

On the other side, people said they would prefer to use limited resources on academic endeavors to make-up for the loss of proficiency due to the pandemic and lock down. One man mentioned sodom and gomorrah and said “God will punish the world again” if the measure passed. Another man said it would lead to to abuse, gender confusion and sexual grooming.

“Yes, sexual grooming,” he repeated, because even he knows how ludicrous it sounds.

A lot of people — including School Board Member Lubby Navarro — talked about religion. “I am someone of deep faith,” said Navarro, who was attacked when she proposed a National Day of Prayer. “When I serve here, I think about the people who I represent, people who, at the core of their being, is faith.

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“My obligation is to follow state law. The law changed this year and said that parents have rights… something I’ve always been saying,” Navarro said. She was absent for the 7-1 vote in 2021. Member Christi Fraga was the only one who voted against it both years.

But that’s BS. She would have voted against it anyway.

Andrea Pita Mendez, the student representative on the board, seemed very stunned by the hateful comments made by some people in the name of religion.

“I am Catholic,” she said, pulling out a Virgen de Guadalupe hanging from her neck. But she agreed with the item and said both were not exclusive. She said she spoke with the students about it and was told that they supported the naming of October LGBTQ+ History Month.

She also had a little admonishment for Navarro, who said the school board’s clients are parents.

“They’re not,” Pita Mendez said. “They are the students who sit there every day. Our students told me they support this item.”

Ladra hopes she runs for school board soon.