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Florida Elections Security Chief Lay Dead for 24 Minutes Without Help Outside Gov. Desantis’ Office, Records Say

Florida Elections Security Chief Lay Dead for 24 Minutes Without Help Outside Gov. Desantis’ Office, Records Say

Hundreds of students at a south Florida high school walked out of lessons on Tuesday in support of a principal and senior staff who were reassigned for reportedly violating Ron DeSantis’s law on transgender athletes.

James Cecil, the principal of Monarch high school in Coconut Creek, his assistant Kenneth May, the school’s athletics director, a volleyball coach and an information management technician were removed from campus on Monday by the Broward school district, citing “allegations of improper student participation in sports”.

The students staged a short protest on school grounds at lunchtime, many wearing pink clothes and carrying placards with messages including “Free Cecil” and “Let her play”, referencing a transgender athlete whose appearances for Monarch’s girls’ volleyball team led to the district’s action.

The family of the girl, identified only by her initials, DN, lost a legal challenge earlier this month to the anti-trans Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. The bill, signed by the hard-right Republican governor DeSantis in 2021, bans female student athletes competing on girls and women’s teams if their birth-assigned gender was male.

John Sullivan, a spokesperson for the school district, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that the lawsuit, adjudicated by district judge Roy Altman, was not a factor in its decision to reassign the five staff members to “non-school sites”.

“The investigation was launched solely on an allegation of a state law not being followed,” he said. “The lawsuit had no bearing on our decision to investigate or reassign.”

In a separate written statement provided to reporters, Sullivan added: “Although we cannot comment further, we will continue to follow state law and will take appropriate action based on the outcome of the investigation.

“We are committed to providing all our students with a safe and inclusive learning environment.”

Broward’s superintendent of schools, Peter Licata, told reporters at a Tuesday press conference that he could not discuss specifics of the investigation, which he said was prompted by a phone “tip-off” from a member of the public. He said the reassignments were not disciplinary, but would allow a fair and impartial inquiry.

The move, however, has angered teachers’ representatives and some students at the school, who planned a lunchtime walkout on Tuesday to support the removed staff.

Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union, told CBS Miami that she doubted the district or school staff were fully familiar with the requirements of the DeSantis measure, which Florida Republicans passed during a controversial late-night legislative session in April 2021.

“I don’t know if they even knew the law, understand the law, what training the district has given all of our athletic directors, all of our admins, all of our coaches on the law,” Fusco said.

“There’s a lot that needs to be known here that is not known.”

Staff at Monarch referred questions on Tuesday to the school district, the nation’s sixth largest, which has said it will not comment further until its investigation is complete.

The Florida department of education has not yet responded to a request for comment. Efforts by the Sun-Sentinel and CBS to reach Cecil and the other reassigned staff were unsuccessful.

According to the lawsuit filed by the athlete’s family, the girl enjoyed playing basketball and softball as a younger child, soccer through her middle school years, and opted for volleyball when she started at Monarch.

Her lawyers argued that the DeSantis act, branded by critics as “cruel and horrific”, was discriminatory in part because it did not block transgender student athletes whose gender was female at birth from competing on boys and men’s teams, and therefore breached the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment of the US constitution.

“The statute must be viewed against the backdrop of the avalanche of anti-transgender, and anti-LGBTQ legislation across the country, and also in the context of ever-increasing legislative hostility in Florida towards LGBTQ individuals,” the attorneys wrote in their filing.

Dismissing the lawsuit in a 39-page ruling for Florida education commissioner Manny Diaz and the state department of education, Altman likened the act to laws preventing blind people from flying airplanes, or HIV-positive people from giving blood.

The Florida law, he said, “is tailored to an important and well-established governmental interest – the promotion of gender equality through the preservation of athletic opportunities for girls”.

He added: “In this respect, it’s not at all like the kinds of laws the equal protection clause unambiguously disallows … that, for instance, prohibited Black Americans from eating at the same restaurants, drinking from the same water fountains, attending the same schools, and swimming in the same beaches as white Americans.”

Source: The Guardian