After rejecting it last year, Miami-Dade School Board considers LGBTQ History Month

Miami Herald | By Sommer Brugal | August 31, 2023

The Miami-Dade County School Board next week is expected to discuss whether the district should recognize October as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer History Month, but objections raised by some members during the initial discussion hint that the measure could be rejected for a second year in a row.

During the board’s committee meeting Wednesday, Vice Chair Danny Espino and members Roberto Alonso, Mary Blanco and Monica Colucci, raised concerns that the recognition — a “symbolic item” that would “support and respect our LGBTQ students and families,” said member Lucia Baez-Geller — could be in violation of a state statute that prohibits instruction of sexual orientation and gender identity to students in pre-K through eighth grade. The recognition, they argued, could send teachers “mixed messages” about what can and can’t be taught in public classrooms.

Alonso, Blanco and Colucci also cited their personal beliefs, arguing discussions related to gender identity and sexual orientation are “family issues” and should be had at home and not in schools — a common sentiment shared by conservatives and Gov. Ron DeSantis, who endorsed Alonso and Colucci and appointed Blanco and Espino to the board.

Baez-Geller, who proposed the measure again this year, however, argued any observance would be in line with state and federal law and would not impact or affect curriculum, instruction or instructional materials.

“This item does not run afoul to classroom instruction,” she said, adding that she included specific language as “added protection” to ensure compliance. “No teacher would be confused because no teacher would be getting instructional materials.” Miami-Dade School Board member Lucia Baez-Geller, District 3. She has put forth a measure, which the Board will take up at its Wednesday meeting, to recognize October at LGBTQ month in Miami-Dade Schools and to incorporate two landmark Supreme Court decisions into 12th-grade teaching materials

Miami-Dade School Board member Lucia Baez-Geller, District 3. She has put forth a measure, which the Board will take up at its Wednesday meeting, to recognize October at LGBTQ month in Miami-Dade Schools and to incorporate two landmark Supreme Court decisions into 12th-grade teaching materials


In 2021, the board voted 7-1 to recognize October as LGBTQ History Month.

But last year, following an hours long debate, the board in an 8-1 vote rejected a similar proposal, arguing the measure could violate newly established law that prohibited instruction related to sexual orientation and gender identity. Last year’s measure included a provision to teach 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 proposal in 2021 did not include the provision, and this year’s proposal doesn’t, either.

During last year’s debate, which drew droves of parents and community members to the school board meeting, those in favor of the adoption, including numerous human rights organizations, argued the measure would create a safe and reaffirming environment for students and faculty in the district. Those who opposed the measure said it went against their religious beliefs and would indoctrinate students — a comment Baez-Geller, who was the lone vote in favor of the measure last year, made a point to call out on Wednesday.

A person waving a transgender flag stands in front of a group of Proud Boys outside a contentious Miami-Dade School Board meeting, where recognizing LGBTQ+ History Month was discussed. Sommer Brugal

“I cannot believe I have to say this, but this item does not indoctrinate our students,” said Baez-Geller, who announced recently she would not seek reelection in 2024. Following Wednesday’s discussion, she told the Herald she hopes her colleagues “consider this item for what it is” and to “reject the hateful and politically motivated rhetoric we saw last year.”

While some members raised concerns over what they perceived to be potential statute violations, member Luisa Santos thanked Baez-Geller for the adjustments made to ensure legal compliance.

Santos, who voted down the measure last year after an effort to include an amendment that would ensure alignment to state statute failed, said on Wednesday that she “looked forward to supporting the item and continuing to show our students that there’s an inclusive culture” in Miami-Dade schools.

Maxx Fenning, founder and executive director of PRISM, a nonprofit organization that provides sexual health information to LGBTQ+ youth, was in attendance at the committee meeting Wednesday and agreed, telling the Herald that “the item does not run afoul of even the most heinous anti-LGBT laws in effect in our state.”

Any attempt to call that into question, Fenning added, is “a weak excuse to cast a vote that says our community’s history is not worthy of recognition” in Miami-Dade schools.

Member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall did not offer a comment. Chairperson Mari Tere Rojas said she would hold her comments for the board meeting next Wednesday afternoon. Steve Gallon III also said he would address the issue at the appropriate time but said a position on an issue should not be used as a metric of “strength, courage and conviction in the access to equity, equality and protection.”

All three voted against the recognition last year.

Beaz-Geller urged her colleagues to “treat our LGBTQ community as we would any other community in Miami-Dade” and to do the right thing. “What we told our community last year was unacceptable.”

Brooklyn Webb joined a group of students in support of the Walking Out to Learn! rally in Miami Beach on Friday, April 21, 2023 to protest against the latest anti-LGBTQ+ educational policies implemented by the State of Florida. Pedro Portal

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