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Florida students stage a walkout after transgender sports controversy

The walkout took place a day after five school staffers, including the principal, were reassigned for reportedly allowing a trans student on the girls volleyball team.
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Hundreds of students at a Florida high school staged a walkout on Tuesday after their principal and several other school officials were reportedly reassigned over a transgender student’s participation on the girls volleyball team.

Students at at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek walked out of class around noon Tuesday to protest the reassignment of Principal James Cecil and staffers.
Students at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek, Fla., walked out of class around noon Tuesday to protest the reassignment of Principal James Cecil and other staffers.NBC Miami

Students at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek, about 15 miles north of Fort Lauderdale, filed out of classrooms and onto the school’s football field at around noon, according to aerial footage from NBC Miami. Some held signs in favor of trans rights, while others chanted “trans lives matter.”The protest came a day after the high school’s principal, James Cecil, and four other staffers were reassigned to non-school sites. It also came amid an ongoing investigation by Broward County officials as to whether the school let a transgender student compete on its girls’ volleyball team, NBC Miami reported, which would violate state law.?

Cecil could not be reached for comment.?

A spokesperson for Broward County Public Schools confirmed that Cecil and the other staffers were reassigned “pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations of improper student participation in sports,” but did not specify if it was because the student is transgender.

Students at at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek walked out of class around noon Tuesday to protest the reassignment of Principal James Cecil and staffers.
Students at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek walked out of class around noon Tuesday to protest the reassignment of Principal James Cecil and other staffers.NBC Miami

The district’s superintendent, Peter Licata, fielded a flurry of questions from reporters at a news conference on Tuesday regarding a transgender student’s participation in the high school’s girls volleyball team. Licata told reporters there would be “new processes” for athlete eligibility going forward.

“We’ll have an extra level of investigation on making sure everyone is eligible for the sport they’re playing, in all aspects, grade level, grades, so forth and so on,” he said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who is currently campaigning to be the 2024 Republican nominee for president — signed a law in 2021 barring transgender girls and women from competing on girls and women’s sports teams in public schools. More than 20 other states have similar laws restricting trans athletes’ participation in school sports. A representative for the Florida governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Students at at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek walked out of class around noon Tuesday to protest the reassignment of Principal James Cecil and staffers.
Students at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek walked out of class around noon Tuesday to protest the reassignment of Principal James Cecil and other staffers.NBC South Florida

A lawsuit was filed in June 2021 against the governor, the School Board of Broward County and several other Florida officials, arguing that the measure violated Title IX, a landmark civil rights law that prevents sex-based discrimination at any school that receives funding from the federal government. A plaintiff in the lawsuit — which a federal judge rejected earlier this month — was a teenage girl who intended to try out for her public school’s volleyball team in Broward County and was only identified by her initials, D.N.?

Attorneys for the unnamed trans girl did not immediately return a request for comment. When asked if the student in question was the same student referred to in the lawsuit, Licata said he was unaware of the suit’s existence.

Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union, suggested that the staffers being reassigned might not have known they were breaking the law by allowing the trans student to compete on the team.

“It’s getting harder and harder for our educators to really understand everything that’s happening,” she said. “Our teachers don’t always understand new laws that come out, old laws that have been out.”

She added, “They just want to show up and be the teacher, the coach, the counselor to help a student thrive.”

Licata said it is unclear if the principal or staffers were aware they were breaking the law, which will be a part of their investigation.

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