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Educators say the penalties for violating Florida's new conduct guidelines are unclear


New professional conduct guidelines for teachers were posted recently on the Florida Department of Education website.

The document includes a half-dozen new prohibitions, including classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation, and personal pronoun usage.

Christie Gold, who works in the Hillsborough school district’s human resources department and previously served on the state’s Educational Practices Commission, said it's unclear how teachers will be punished for violating these guidelines.

"Those guidelines are what help us shape what, ultimately, the teacher has to do to keep their certificate in good shape," Gold said. "I have not seen penalty guidelines attached to this new language. And I'd be curious to see it."

She said disciplinary measures could range from warnings, coursework and fines, to suspension and termination.

"We think that it's going to be one of those things where the legislature or the law might pick and choose where they want to actually prosecute somebody or do something with it. And that in itself is inequitable and ridiculous," said Rob Kriete, president of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.

Gold added that charges against teachers could take a year or more to resolve because of lengthy investigations.

Kriete said the issue is further complicated, and constantly in flux, because of lawsuits.

The 2022 Florida law that restricts instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in schools, that led to these prohibitions being added, has been put on hold by a federal appeals court after attorneys said they were in settlement talks.

Kriete said the laws — and the updated guidelines — are part of a long range effort to privatize education.

"A lot of these laws that are coming out, whether it's about funding, whether it's about pronouns, whether it's about anti-union laws, it's all being created to get rid of that [public education]," Kriete said. "They want to privatize it in a way that we think is despicable, and quite frankly, unjust for the students and our communities of Florida."

Kriete said that's why unions are more important now than ever before.
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Daylina Miller