“Safe space” stickers are the latest item to be banned following the passage of a Florida bill declaring a parent’s rights in education.
Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning ordered the removal of the stickers in all district schools. “Safe space” stickers are displayed by staff to assure LGBTQ students they won’t be in danger in those classrooms or areas.
A statement published on the school district’s website said banning the stickers complies with Florida’s House Bill 1557, which has been called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The statement on its website begins by saying that the school district respects a diversity of views and lifestyle choices, but that it must comply with recent legislation. The district said parents must be notified if there is a change in a student’s services and the school’s ability to provide a safe, supportive learning environment for that student.
The district expressed concern that a student’s presence in a “safe space” could trigger a duty of district staff to notify a parent of a potential change in the child’s well-being. The district decided to remove the stickers instead.
“Due to recent legislation concerning parental rights, our school district will no longer utilize ‘safe spaces’ and will no longer display ‘safe space’ stickers,” a statement on the school district’s website said.
“The ‘safe space’ stickers will be removed, as they have become a flashpoint that distracts from our goals of creating a school-wide and districtwide safe environment. Additionally, staff are not to provide any materials to students that would impact a parent’s right to direct the upbringing, moral training, religious training, education and care of their minor children,” the statement said.
The district said it was difficult to determine whether a student’s presence in a “safe space” indicated a student’s emotional well-being, so the district opted to discontinue the practice to avoid violating the law.
As HB 1557 allows parents to challenge violations in court, the district said it was “in the best interest” to comply with the law. The statement said that “we support our students and that all of our campuses are safe places.”
HB 1557 isn’t the only legislation leading to a district banning items. Sarasota County Schools recently could not accept an annual dictionary donation from the local Rotary Club as HB 1467 requires school districts to have all reading and instructional materials reviewed by a district employee with a “valid educational media specialist certificate.” Since Sarasota County Schools doesn’t have a certified media specialist, it had to freeze book purchases and donations until January of 2023, including dictionaries.
HB 1467 and HB 1557 took effect in July.