Group claims school district discriminates against LGBTQ students, forced them ‘into the closet’

Florida News | By Amber Jo Cooper | May 15, 2024

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. – A 31-page complaint has been filed with the U.S. Department of Education against the Collier County Public School District for “discrimination based on sex including based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics.”

The complaint was filed by the National Woman’s Law Center, a nonprofit that “fights for gender justice” on behalf of “LGBTQIA+ students and students of color, families, staff, and faculty.”

The group alleges that classroom libraries and media centers have been “decimated” and “students have been forced back into the closet” among other claims.

The complaint said the county has “created a sex- and race-based hostile environment for LGBTQIA+ students and students of color by targeting and removing numerous classroom and library materials that feature people of color and LGBTQIA+ characters and authors, that discuss racial identity and race-based discrimination, and that discuss LGBTQIA+ identity and LGBTQIA+ discrimination (‘inclusive books’).”

“Testimonials offered by students, parents, educators, and Board members evince that the County’s policies are creating a hostile environment for students,” the complaint stated.

In conclusion, the complaint states the federal government ‘s Office of Civil Rights should “intervene.”

“We respectfully request that OCR open an investigation into the County’s ongoing violations of Title IX and Title VI and require the County to adopt the remedies outlined above,” the complaint added.

The complaint also said “without swift remedial efforts to make Collier County Public Schools welcoming to all students, the damage caused by banning inclusive books will result in ongoing harm.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis office has previously spoken out to “debunk” the “false book ban narrative.”

“Florida does not ban books, instead, the state has empowered parents to object to obscene material in the classroom,” a previous press release from DeSantis’ office said.

Each school district is “responsible for ensuring all the materials in their schools adhere to state education standards,” the press release explained.

DeSantis previously signed HB 1069 for parental rights in education which “outlined the process districts must create for parents and residents to have the ability to object to inappropriate materials in Florida classrooms.”

The department said this process keeps students from “having access to sexually explicit materials.”

Florida’s Voice reached out to the Collier County School District and Superintendent and will update this story if a response is received.

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