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Florida Queer Teacher Wins First Amendment Victory In The Classroom

A federal judge made a significant ruling mandating that Florida education authorities permit a transgender teacher, Katie Wood, to use she/her pronouns while at school. This decision comes following a lawsuit filed by Wood, alongside a nonbinary teacher named AV Schwandes, last year. The lawsuit challenged the validity of Florida’s HB 1069, a law enacted by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, which prohibits public K-12 educational staff from using a student’s preferred personal pronouns if they don’t align with the student’s sex. Violations of this law carry severe penalties, including termination and potential suspension or revocation of teaching certificate. After HB 1069 became law, Wood, who teaches math at Lennard High School in East Tampa and had already changed her name and gender on official documents, was told by the principal that she couldn’t call herself “Miss” anymore. Schwandes, who worked at Florida Virtual School teaching physics, got fired in October after they told people they’re nonbinary and chose not to use gendered words like “he” or “she.” The two teachers took legal action against state officials, including the Florida Department of Education. They claimed that HB 1069 goes against Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Title IX, and the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. They requested an injunction to stop the law’s enforcement, as well as a preliminary injunction. On Tuesday, Judge Mark Walker approved Wood’s request for a preliminary injunction on the grounds it violated Walker’s free speech.

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