School District Discussed How to Circumvent DeSantis’ ‘Stop WOKE Act,’ Education Dept. Says

By Lydia Nusbaum, Florida's Voice

May 10, 2022 Updated 11:11 AM ET

desantis woke

May 10, 2022 Updated 11:05 A.M. ET

FORT MYERS (FLV) – The Florida Department of Education sent a letter to the Lee County School Superintendent reprimanding board members for discussing how to avoid upcoming requirements in the Parental Rights in Education Law, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, and the newly signed “Stop W.O.K.E. Act.”

Florida Department of Education Interim Commissioner Jacob Oliva sent a letter to Lee County Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Savage on May 6th. 

“It was recently brought to the Department’s attention that during the Lee County School Board Workshop on April 26, 2022, there were conversations about ways to circumvent the upcoming requirements set forth in House Bills 7, 1467 and 1557,” Oliva said in the letter.

The Parental Rights in Education law provides parents more access to information to their children’s personal education experience and prevent children from Pre-K through 3rd grade from being taught about gender and sexual identity. The “Stop WOKE Act” bans educators and workplace employers from teaching Floridians that their “moral character” is determined by race, sex, or national origin. 

The Lee County School Board held a workshop April 25, 2022 where Jamie Merchant, who works with Florida Citizens Alliance, and other parents were concerned about remarks made regarding the new laws and reported the board’s conversations to the state. 

The video shows school board members talking about training teachers with the new “Stop WOKE Act” and how that curriculum will be monitored. 

“What I foresee in this are two things. How do we train? What do we do if we go over the line in the training? And I can say that we will.” said School Board Member Betsy Vaughn. “So much of this is not educationally sound. And secondly, what will they do? Will they take away funding? 

The members at the workshop then began talking about the impact that legislation could have on funding if teachers “crossed the line” with the “Stop WOKE Act” as well as the Parental Rights in Education law. 

“If they put this in writing, you know they are going to be out there monitoring. And you know that they are going to be flying into probably the schools that are already on their radar that ticked them off about masks,” Vaughn said. “That concerns me and I think we need to know this ahead of time. What are they going to do? How are they going to do this?”

Oliva’s letter reminded the board that state law “supersedes” School board policies. 

“It is your responsibility to set the example for every employee of the Lee County School District and ensure that ethical decisions are being made,” Oliva said. 

Florida’s Voice reached out to the Lee County School District Monday afternoon for a copy of the letter and asked for a comment Tuesday morning.

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