Equity & Diversity

After Debate Citing Indoctrination and Nazis, Miami-Dade School Board Rejects LGBTQ Month

By Sommer Brugal, Miami Herald — September 08, 2022 4 min read
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After listening to more than three hours of angry debate, with one side likening the measure to student indoctrination and the other talking about how Nazis ostracized gays and lesbians with a pink triangle, the Miami-Dade School Board voted late Wednesday evening to slap down a measure recognizing October as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer History Month and teaching 12th graders about two landmark Supreme Court cases impacting the LGBTQ communities.

The vote was 8-1 with board member Lucia Baez Geller, who proffered the item, the only one voting for the measure.

The vote brought out droves of parents, teachers and students — along with a contingent of Proud Boys, who got in a loud argument with a person hoisting a trans flag outside the School Board headquarters at 1450 NE Second Ave. in downtown Miami. Throughout Wednesday, about 35 to 45 people stood in line in the afternoon sun outside the building, waiting to enter to make their comments known.

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“There is an election year and the anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric is a tool used by some to spread misinformation,” said board member Lucia Baez Geller. “This is just plain disinformation.”

Baez Geller’s proposal called for recognizing October as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) History Month and teaching 12th graders about two Supreme Court landmark decisions — Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015 (recognizing same-sex marriage) and Bostock v. Clayton County in 2020 (finding an employer can’t fire someone for being gay or transgender).

The school district recognizes many months throughout the school year to teach students about history, whether it be about Hispanic heritage, Black history or women’s history. October is National LGBT History Month.

Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, Baez Geller said the measure “is mostly to recognize the dignity and the respect for each other.” On Wednesday, she noted that 12th graders could opt out of learning about the two Supreme Court cases.

Last year, the Board voted 7-1 to recognize October as (LGBTQ) month, but last year’s measure did not include the provision to add the two Supreme Court cases to the 12th grade coursework.

Around 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, nearly six hours after the discussion first began — with a nearly one-hour break to hear about the district’s $7 billion budget in between — the Board finally voted. Those still in the audience cheered and clapped while others sat stoically after the 8-1 vote defeating the measure.

Before the vote, many who spoke in favor of the adoption, including numerous human rights organizations, argued a recognition would create a safe and reaffirming environment for students in the district. Many cited discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community and how many students struggle with mental health issues.

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Maxx Fenning, president and founder of PRISM FL, a nonprofit organization that provides sexual health information to LGBTQ+ youth, likened those who wanted to block the measure to how Nazis ostracized gay people, making them wear a pink badge to reflect their sexual orientation.

“LGBTQ history is American history,’’ he said, noting if he were alive when the Nazis were in power, he would have been forced to wear the pink triangle badge that he wore on his shirt as he spoke.

Another man, who was a product of Miami-Dade Public Schools, urged the board members to pass the measure, noting he did not want students to feel the isolation that he did when he was a gay student in school decades ago.

“I can tell you as a gay child, I felt completely alone,’’ he said.

Those who opposed the measure said it went against their religious beliefs and that the board was abiding in the indoctrination and sexual abuse of children. Some, however, falsely claimed that the measure would adopt new curriculum for students to learn about LGBTQ+ issues. They said it was a gateway to speaking with students about LGBTQ+ topics without parental consent.

Max Tover, a pastor and parent in the district, led those outside in a prayer, asking that the board members reject the motion. In speaking to the Herald, he said passing the measure is “a Trojan Horse.” His friend, who wouldn’t provide his name, said talking about the law equates to child abuse..

A person waving a transgender flag stands in front of a group of Proud Boys outside a contentious Miami-Dade School Board meeting discussing whether to recognize October as LGBTQ+ History Month in schools on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, at the board's headquarters in downtown Miami. The board heard more than three hours of comments from students, teachers and parents before voting 8-1 to defeat the measure, which also called for teaching 12th-graders about two landmark Supreme Court cases impacting the LGBTQ communities.

During the public comment period, parent after parent who opposed the measure used the term “indoctrination” when speaking against the measure, saying it was parents’ right to decide whether to teach their children about gay and lesbian rights, not teachers in public schools.

Baez Geller countered that the measure did not indoctrinate students nor did it take away parental choice, as many who opposed the measure cited the recently passed “Parental Rights in Education” law, which prohibits instruction related to gender identity or sexual orientation in kindergarten through 3rd grade. Those opposed to the law say it could potentially restrict such instruction for older kids and have called it the “Don’t say gay” bill.

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Baez Geller reiterated that parents could opt out of the 12th-grade lessons on the Supreme Court cases, but noted that students already learn about other Supreme Court cases that have become the law of the land, and these two cases are no different, she said.

Shortly before the vote, Andrea S. Pita Mendez, the board’s student adviser, spoke in favor of the item, despite feeling scared to share how she felt and what she believed in after listening to the multiple hours of public comment. Nevertheless, she said, she was elected by her peers to represent the student body, which she said supported the item.

Moreover, she said, she disagreed with board member Lubby Navarro’s comments claiming parents were the district’s clients. Instead, she argued, students were the district’s clients.

Copyright (c) 2022, Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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