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A new study shows health disparities cost Texas billions of dollars; Senate rejects impeachment articles against Mayorkas, ending trial against Cabinet secretary; Iowa cuts historical rural school groups.

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The Senate dismisses the Mayorkas impeachment. Maryland Lawmakers fail to increase voting access. Texas Democrats call for better Black maternal health. And polling confirms strong support for access to reproductive care, including abortion.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

FL teachers sue state over restriction on pronoun use

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Thursday, December 14, 2023   

Three Florida teachers filed suit Wednesday over a Florida statute they claim targets transgender and nonbinary teachers for being themselves at work.

The teachers: Katie Wood, AV Schwandes and a Jane Doe, argued the statute, established by House Bill 1069, which bans instructions on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through eighth grade, also prohibits school employees and contractors from providing their pronouns to students if they do not correspond to their sex.

Sam Boyd, senior supervising attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said plaintiff Katie Wood, a Hillsborough County high school math teacher, was hired at her school as a transgender woman, where she would normally write 'Miss Wood' on the chalkboard.

That was until the law passed, and the school said she could no longer do it.

"And so, if a student calls her 'mister,' she is not allowed to say anything about that," Boyd explained. "If a student asks whether she would prefer to be called Ms. Wood, she's not allowed to answer. She has to sort of stay silent and misrepresent this basic aspect of her identity."

Officials at the Department of Education and the local school districts named in the lawsuit have not yet commented on the case. However, Republican lawmakers with a supermajority argued expanding the parental rights law was necessary to ensure the state's youngest students learn about adult topics, such as sexual orientation and gender identity, from their parents instead of at school.

According to the complaint, the new law has "stigmatized" transgender and nonbinary teachers, "threatened their psychological well-being" and "upended the respect that is owed to them as educators." Boyd contends the pronoun law violates constitutional rights tied to sex discrimination, equal-protection clauses and free speech, among other things, and he hopes the court will see the way it restricts the freedoms of educators.

"The State Board of Education issued regulations that make complying with this law a part of the standards of professionalism under the state, and that means that teachers' licenses can be revoked by the state if they violate the law," Boyd noted.

The issue is also part of the same law dealing with book bans, which prohibit materials in schools containing "sexual conduct." Critics are worried its vague language could apply to valuable pieces of literature.


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