DC vs Florida Schools
I received an email from a desperate mama in Florida. She has been watching my videos. She said she wanted to get her kids out of their current schools and into a system where the politics and beliefs were more aligned with her way of thinking. The naïve me would have said, “what do politics have to do with schools?” Well, the 2024 me knows much better. Florida Mama said that Governor DeSantis’s policies have had drastic effects on their schools.
I’m using this call from Florida Mama to tell you about the differences in schools here vs what she described to me. But, this isn’t only Florida-specific. It could apply to any state where political influence on schools is similar. Also, remember that when I say “DC” schools, it includes the surrounding areas, known here as the “DMV.” This means the Northern Virginia and Maryland suburbs of DC.
I lived in Florida for 4 years. Granted that was in the Miami Vice years. My parents have also maintained a residence in Florida since the 1980’s so I’ve spent a lot of time there. I know that Florida is gonna Florida no matter what the rest of the country is up to. At the time of this call, DeSantis was considering his run for Republican nomination for President. We found out this week that he’s dropped out.
Florida Schools: Required are DTaP, Polio, MMR, Hepatitis B, Tdap and Varicella. In April 2021, DeSantis signed the order that Covid -19 Vaccines aren’t required.
DC Schools: They require all of the above, but also require Hepatitis A, Flu & Pneumonia. In teen years they also require Meningitis and HPV. Yes. HPV. You may ask yourself why the school system is requiring a vaccine against some types of cancer caused by a virus that’s sexually transmitted. My feelings on whether my daughters can and should get this vaccine have nothing to do with how I feel about DC making it a requirement. I’ll be damned if DCPS is going to require us to prove the girls got HPV vaccines.
In November 2023, the DC Council repealed a mandate for the Covid Vaccine.
Montgomery County, Maryland: Same vaccines as Florida, plus Meningitis. There’s no Covid requirement nor is Hepatitis A required in Maryland. HPV is “required” but you can opt out.
Hepatitis A is not required in Virginia either but the Virginia school districts near DC do require it.
Fairfax County, Arlington County and the City of Alexandria in Virginia: Hepatitis A and Meningitis are required. HPV is also included in the required lineup, but the first sentence right after that says the parent or guardian can opt out or they can opt out of providing proof. Well played, Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria. This is how you handle a parent and student population.
The Don’t Say Gay Bill
Florida: Class instruction in gender identity and sexuality was originally banned through grade 3, but expanded to include all grades.
DMV Schools: You won’t see gender identity education at the elementary level here, but will the kids have it in older grades? Yes.
Florida: Also known as “there’s a form for that,” parents have to fill out forms for everything. Florida Mama told me that her child can’t even go to the nurse unless they have a permission slip saying the student can see the nurse. Use of nicknames, allowable library books, there are forms for all of this. Florida wants parents to know everything about their own kids and leave these decisions to the families.
Quick note here, I read the legislation.
What the media doesn’t say is that the law specifically says that should the school believe any revelation of this information would result in abuse, they do not have to share it.
First, it’s very important for me to get this off my chest 5 years after it happened. When Mercina went to Kindergarten, they were putting her on a bus once a week to go to art classes at a different location in DC. I didn’t find this out until she mentioned it one day and I was really confused. Same thing happened to Leia when she was in Pre-K. The school stuck our kids on a bus and took them a couple miles away and no one bothered to let their parents know.
Parental involvement on other issues is a constant conversation here. You should know that if your child identifies as LGBTQIA at school, it’s unlikely anyone will call you from the school to inform you. The area is quite liberal and parents are likely more open and accepting of their children’s choices than they are in perhaps more conservative areas. Know that while the laws here are always being updated and revised, if your child is identifying as LGBTQIA and they ask the school to maintain that confidence, their wishes are going to be honored.
In Virginia where there is a Republican Governor, there have been laws enacted more in line with what you see in Florida. However, there’s been pushback from the Northern Virginia Counties where school districts are willing to violate Commonwealth Law to protect student rights.
Let’s lighten this up from with something less controversial. In our school, kids can go to the nurse on their own and they don’t need permission from their parents to be seen. My kids don’t really complain to go to the nurse. One time I missed the call and they sent Mercina back to class. They are always sending them back to class. When you call back, the first thing they say is, “She’s okay, but…” and then they tell you what the issue is. They could say “Leia came in today with both arms and legs ripped off but we gave her a band aid and sent her back to class.” And no, we don’t have a form for that.
Aside from permission slips for everything, the general sentiment from Florida Mama was that the school district was going in a crazy direction. I concede that having to agree to let my kid choose to see the nurse is excessive. But, I told her that if they moved here, she would probably find that everything she’s trying to correct could swing wildly in the opposite direction. I offered several examples of things that happen in schools here for which we get no active notice. Last week there were bomb threats and they chose not to evacuate schools. Last year we had serious safety issues and weren’t told because 1 child’s privacy was more important than the other 500 kids in school whose days were altered by what happened. While the forms seem extreme now, the alternative might be worse.