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New parent permission form required for all activities

Students+boo+during+a+2022+indoor+pep+rally.+According+to+the+School-Sponsored+Events+and+Activities+bill%2C+parent+permission+forms+will+now+be+required+for+students+to+attend+such+events.
Alexis Butler
Students boo during a 2022 indoor pep rally. According to the School-Sponsored Events and Activities bill, parent permission forms will now be required for students to attend such events.

A new Florida bill, titled School-Sponsored Events and Activities, is an addition to the Parental Rights in Education Act, and it requires a permission slip signed by parents to allow students to attend any school-sponsored activities after school hours. This includes  clubs, field trips, sports games and any other program that the school district hosts. Parents must be fully informed of all the details of the event, requiring the permission form to clearly state the date and time for the activity, specific locations, the sponsors and guests attending, the nature of the event, the method of supervision and the number of chaperones. 

Other specific details in the bill include that school districts are not allowed to admit a student to any “adult live performances” or authorize any leased buildings, property or district-owned areas with the intent of regulating such events. While the bill was not officially enacted in the state of Florida until Aug. 22, its effects have already been felt by students and staff.

This bill gives full control of event attendance to the parents. While these permission slips may only seem like a simple step for parents and students, several clubs are already feeling the negative effects of this new law. It prevents students from getting necessary comfort and support that they may not get at home since they will not be able to join clubs with their friends. If a parent does not agree with what their student believes or participates in, they can isolate the student from relationships with similar-minded peers by prohibiting them from joining certain clubs.

In response to the recent legislation, the Gay Straight Alliance club feels that fewer students may be allowed to attend, threatening their goal of safety and inclusion on campus. The Gay Straight Alliance club is a student-led group that meets every other Monday to share stories, experiences and support for one another. The club is open to all, regardless of their affiliation to the LGBTQ+ community. Occasionally, the school’s mental health counselor joins to offer assistance and advice for students in need, making this a very active community on campus. 

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“[The parent permission slip bill] will likely hurt GSA, simply because that was in essence a sanctuary for students to support other students in an environment that maybe they don’t experience anywhere except for in school,” GSA sponsor Cameron Curran said. “If [the students’] other worlds don’t sign that permission slip, then they’ve lost a chance to feel that same support that GSA would provide.”

This bill is also hindering other clubs from hosting their first meetings because of the lack of details. While school officials worked to interpret the bill and how it should be enforced, clubs have been postponing and rescheduling their first meetings for the past few weeks, for example the Girl Up Club.

“I was surprised because I don’t think that the people creating the bill thought about implementation, and if they thought about implementation, I wonder if chaos was the point.”

— Julie Duncan, Girl Up club sponsor

“The Girl Up Club is so motivated and ready to attack this school year and do great things. [Our members] have projects that we’re already working on, and we can’t have a meeting yet,” Girl Up sponsor Julie Duncan said. “We’ve had to reschedule it three times—the state should have given us more time and more leeway.”

The bill’s vague wording left club sponsors and leaders with many questions about how to satisfy the legal requirements and how it would affect their club schedules. Because of this, club sponsors and administration met on Aug. 21 to discuss how the county will act in accordance with the new bill and how permission forms would be distributed. They decided that each club will send out a digital Google form for parents to sign, making it easier for sponsors to see which students are permitted to participate. In order to make sure the forms include all the necessary information, forms must list the dates, events and guest speakers that the club has planned for the entire year. However, plans on how to handle the permission slips for in-school pep rallies, sports events, and assemblies are still underway. In the meantime, most club meetings will be postponed until next week to ensure that all of the requirements of the bill are met.

“I was surprised because I don’t think that the people creating the bill thought about implementation, and if they thought about implementation, I wonder if chaos was the point,” Duncan said. 

Staff and students are also concerned about why the Florida Department of Education enacted the bill in the first place, especially with the other recent laws authorized within the past year. Questions have risen on why they are limiting the openness of students’ learning opportunities and what they are specifically trying to target.

“What is the actual intention behind this bill? What is the purpose of it? I think that those are really important questions to ask because I’m having a hard time understanding its intent,” Curran said.

This story was originally published on Hagerty Journalism Today on August 23, 2023.