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Orange County plaintiff on preferred pronouns lawsuit speaks out

AV Schwandes, from Orange County, was fired by the Florida Virtual School because they use the gender neutral title, Mx.
AV Schwandes, from Orange County, was fired by the Florida Virtual School because they use the gender neutral title, Mx.

One of the three teachers who is suing the Florida Department of Education, along with other local schools, over the Parental Rights in Education or so-called "Don't Say Gay" law is speaking out.

AV Schwandes, from Orange County, was fired by the Florida Virtual School because they use the gender neutral title, Mx.

Under the 2023 expansion of the law, teachers can be fired and lose their certification for using preferred pronouns and other preferred titles.

Schwandes, who teaches physics, said they’re fighting for their civil rights, along with other teachers and students who want to be able to fully express their gender identity and sexuality at schools across Florida.

“My teaching career, my extensive more than 15-year teaching career is at risk, both here in Florida and in every state across the nation, if my teaching certificate is revoked. All because I want to be myself. I want to use a title that fits me," said Schwandes.

Plus, Schwandes said there's already a shortage of STEM teachers and teachers in general in Florida. Laws like this one, could lead to qualified teachers in high-demand fields being let go, worsening the shortage.

"I teach physics and teachers are across the nation really, but especially here in Florida are leaving the profession in droves for reasons related to pay and safety. And now here in Florida, we also have to contend with the violation of our civil rights just to do our jobs. Our livelihoods, our teaching certificates are at risk just for being ourselves," said Schwandes.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and proponents of the law say it's needed in order to not confuse kids or expose them to age-inappropriate content.

Florida Virtual School, a defendant in the suit, says the school is obligated to follow all Florida laws and regulations pertaining to public education. And the Florida Department of Education, another defendant, says they don’t comment on pending litigation.

Read the full lawsuit here:

Danielle Prieur is WMFE's education reporter.
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