Florida school announces ‘biological gender’ policy, asks LGBTQ+ students to leave ‘immediately’

The religious school said in an email it believes any form of “homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgender identity/lifestyle, self-identification, bestiality, incest, fornication, adultery and pornography" are sinful in God's eyes.

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A religious school in Florida delivered a very direct message to students and their parents: Students will only be addressed according to the “gender on their birth certificates” and LGBTQ+ students are not to attend.

NBC News reported that Grace Christian School, in Valrico, used Bible verses in a June 6 email to parents to support its decisions. Students who identify as gay, transgender or gender nonconforming “would be asked to leave the school immediately,” according to the email from administrator Barry McKeen.

“We believe that God created mankind in His image: male (man) and female (woman), sexually different but with equal dignity,” according to the email, which was sent with the subject line “Important School Policy Point of Emphasis…. Please Read,” as reported by NBC.

“Therefore, one’s biological sex must be affirmed and no attempts should be made to physically change, alter, or disagree with one’s biological gender — including, but not limited to, elective sex reassignment, transvestite, transgender, or non-binary gender fluid acts of conduct (Genesis 1:26-28). Students in school will be referred to by the gender on their birth certificate and be referenced in name in the same fashion,” the email read.

In addition, the school cited passages from the books of Genesis, Leviticus, Romans, I Corinthians 6:9 and I Thessalonians 4:2–7 to support its position that any form of “homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgender identity/lifestyle, self-identification, bestiality, incest, fornication, adultery and pornography” is sinful in God’s eyes.

Before their children can start school in August, the email stated, parents must confirm that they have read, understood and accepted the regulations and procedures.

The rules, which were in place before the detailed email reminder, played a part in one family’s decision to withdraw their gay 16-year-old daughter from the school and move her to a more “accepting” religious institution, per NBC. The teen – who requested anonymity out of concern for potential harassment – said that she felt like a “social outcast” at Grace Christian, but that her new school allows her to completely be herself.

“It’s not like my daughter goes around wearing rainbow flags or anything like that,” the teenager’s mother said, according to NBC. “But I’m not going to have her feel ashamed of herself for any reason.”

One graduate of the school, who also spoke anonymously, told NBC that there were times when anti-LGBTQ sentiments were expressed during chapel services on school days. In one instance, she said, McKeen told students they would go to hell for being gay, saying: “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” He is also said to have kicked two students out of the institution for being gay.

Florida school rules
Grace Christian’s directive against LGBTQ+ students is being reinforced in a state, Florida, that has developed a reputation for having strict anti-gay. Even so, revelers gathered in March for the Tampa Pride Parade. (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

Florida has developed a reputation for having strict and controversial anti-LGBTQ laws and regulations, and Josh Bell, a gay man who is executive director of the LGBTQ organization One Orlando Alliance, said the rules of Grace Christian could cause emotional turmoil and perhaps even physical harm to some LGBTQ students.

Bell’s concerns are similar to those of Preston Mitchum, director of advocacy and government affairs at LGBTQ nonprofit The Trevor Project. Mitchum previously told theGrio that Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill and those similar could be especially harmful for young Black and brown LGBTQ people, who are already subject to anti-LGBTQ policies as well as anti-Black policies through other bills that forbid discussions of race.

“This is incredibly impactful to LGBTQ students of color, and in particular, Black students, because of the compounding negative impact on their mental health and well-being,” Mitchum told theGrio.

“Depression and mental health challenges and anxiety sets in and can be really debilitating for many Black and Brown LGBTQ folks, particularly when you’re young. It’s really important for us to have inclusive conversations in school related to folks’ race, sexual orientation and gender identity.”

McKeen and other Grace Christian School officials could not be reached for comment before NBC published its article, the outlet said, but later sent a video statement confirming the policy.

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