An intense school board meeting that lasted more than four hours drew heated exchanges and a vitriolic display of homophobic and transphobic bigotry from some protestors who gathered outside the building before the meeting.
Florida Today reports that the protest drew more proponents than critics of the Brevard Public Schools guidelines on how transgender and other LGBTQ students should be treated in accordance with state and federal laws.
“Despite not being originally part of the meeting agenda, the focal point of the night was a document, sent to BPS administrators March 1, containing guidance for working with LGBTQ students,” Florida Today reports. “The document has been widely circulated since last week by local politicians and the conservative group Moms for Liberty, sparking outrage on social media.”
The guidelines state that students are allowed to dress as the gender with which they identify and should be referred to by their preferred names and pronouns. It also states that students can access locker rooms and restrooms consistent with their gender identities “or be provided appropriate accommodations,” and can participate in gender-segregated school clubs and activities, including sports, consistent with their gender identity.
The outlet noted that about 40 parents, students and activists came to participate in the meeting’s public comment section. Nearly twice as many people spoke out defending the guidelines versus those opposed.
“We cannot make any promises going forward because we are all subject to state and federal law,” school board chair Misty Belford told the community. “To the point: Are we legally required to do the things on the document? We are, and we will.”
A federal court ruled in August that a Florida school district had violated Title IX protections against sex-based discrimination when it told a transgender student he couldn’t use the boy’s restrooms.
“We are just children going to school,” Andrew Triolo, a Satellite Beach High School student, said during the meeting. “We want to learn to make friends and play sports, nothing more. Queer students are no different from other students in our school.”
Outside the meeting, pro-Trump protesters held signs with phrases like “straight & proud” and “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” while some in the crowd shouted “queers” and “pedophiles” at students.
While the conservative group Moms for Liberty and local politicians had encouraged the crowd to gather, they were met with counter-protesters who wore rainbow masks, T-shirts and signs that proclaimed “trans students matter” and “moms for equality, liberty for all.”
For the most part, civil rights supporters ignored the MAGA crowd. And while they waited outside the building to testify in front of the board inside, their numbers kept swelling. Coronavirus prevention measures meant that only a limited number of people could enter the chambers at a time.
The document was only a reminder of the school district’s policies that were implemented years ago. The guidance cited federal law and court rulings to determine how best to stay in legal compliance.