December 14 (UPI) — Three teachers in Florida are suing the state education department for discrimination because of a law, which some people call the “Don’t Say Gay” rule, that stops them from using pronouns and titles that match their gender identities.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed the case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on Wednesday on behalf of the two transgender women and the nonbinary teacher who was fired for using the gender-neutral honorific “Mx.”
Lawyers say that Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act is unfair to the teachers because of their gender and goes against Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
In his email addresses to students, AV Schwandes used the title “MX.” He was fired from his job as a science teacher at an online public high school in Florida.
“Being a public school in Florida, FLVS has to follow all of the state’s rules and laws about public schools.” In a statement about the firing last month, Florida Virtual School said, “This includes laws… about the use of personal titles and pronouns in Florida’s public school system.”
As of 2018, Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act doesn’t allow “classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity” from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. It also limits health education from sixth grade to twelfth grade. It also says that teachers and students can’t use names and titles that don’t match the gender they were at birth.
One of the plaintiffs transitioned in 2020, and the other came out as trans in 2021. Both said that their districts supported their identities. However, they want state law to support their use of names and titles that match their gender identities. Schwandes is the third plaintiff. He was fired and is now suing the state for damages.
Schwandes said in a statement Wednesday, “I lost my job and maybe my career because Florida lawmakers don’t want young adults about to become adults to know that I exist.”
“As a high school teacher, I should not have to pretend to be someone I’m not simply because I don’t ascribe to someone else’s rigid ideas of gender,” said Schwandes. “There are two ways to be tolerant. When someone else has a religious belief, I accept it. The same goes for my civil rights. I am an American, and I exist.