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Parents in Florida must OK a teacher calling their child by a nickname

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Florida teachers now need a parent's signature before they may use a student's nickname in class. That's one consequence of the state's Parental Rights in Education law, also known as the Don't Say Gay law. So naming consent forms have been mailed to parents in central Florida. From WMFE in Orlando, Danielle Prieur reports.

DANIELLE PRIEUR, BYLINE: Florida parents like Jennifer Devine are getting creative, signing the new form that allows students to be called by a nickname or other chosen name.

JENNIFER DEVINE: And my response was, anything she so chooses because she is an independent individual and not a damn object.

PRIEUR: Devine is not a fan of the new form. Seminole and Orange County schools in Central Florida have already sent out the required paperwork to parents this week. Under the Parental Rights in Education, or Don't Say Gay, law, teachers can't use a child's preferred pronouns. They also can't call a child a name that's different from the one on their birth certificate unless a parent signs off. Judi Hayes has two kids in Orange County and calls the process frustrating. She says the school system has much bigger issues to solve, including a bus driver shortage.

JUDI HAYES: We're just wasting the school's resources. You know, we're wasting their time or wasting their energy with nonsense like, you know, having kids sign off on nickname forms.

PRIEUR: These nickname forms, as she calls them, came with this guidance from the Florida Department of Education. If Robert wants to be called Bobby, he needs a form. And if Robert, who's transitioning, wants to be called Roberta, she also needs a form. For Jen Cousins, who has four kids in Orange County schools, it's just another attack on LGBTQ kids. One of her children is nonbinary, and she worries about name shaming.

JEN COUSINS: Does it just take one bad person in a school to say, hey, I heard them using their nickname today or, you know, go report somebody? Nobody knows.

PRIEUR: The Department of Education says these new rules are needed so as not to confuse children. Cousins finally decided to fill out the form this way.

COUSINS: That they may be called Saffy, and then I said, or any other name they choose to go by because the BOE is not the parent of my child.

PRIEUR: Cousins had heard from parents who are debating whether to put a joke name on the form, but they weren't sure of the repercussions.

For NPR News, I'm Danielle Prieur in Orlando. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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