Home / Attorney says school board can’t update LGBTQ equality policy in 2020-21 code of conduct

Attorney says school board can’t update LGBTQ equality policy in 2020-21 code of conduct

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The discussion about whether a student within The Schools District of Lee County can use a restroom consistent with their gender identity is not over.

Board member Melisa Giovanelli tried to make a motion to take the controversial LGBTQ equality poster and policy out of the 2020-21 student code of conduct during the Lee County School Board meeting Tuesday.

“Our other board attorney, retired board attorney, Mr. Martin, he advised poster cannot be removed without public hearing because it would be an amendment to the policy,” Giovannelli said.

The school board attorney said board members can’t take back their vote on approving the code of conduct, so Giovannelli asked her fellow board members to let the public know how they would have voted on the poster.

“I would rescind my vote at this time based on how it was put in the code of conduct without community stakeholders,” board member Gwyn Gittens said.

Gittens did say she would also rescind her vote as she stated a couple weeks ago.

No other board members said how they would have voted on the poster when Giovannelli posed the question.


Controversy continues to surround a poster provided to the District that outlines educational tools about transgender students on school campuses. Part of the controversy is also focused on the case-by-case bathroom policy that accommodates transgender students regarding which bathroom they use.

Hundreds of parents showed up to debate this and the poster during the previous meeting.

The school board started the debate over whether the poster, which in part says transgender students can use the restroom consistent with their gender identity, should be part of the code of conduct for the next school year.

“At tomorrow’s meeting, I will bring forth a motion to repeal the Equality Florida graphic from the 2021 student code of conduct,” board member Melisa Giovannelli said at the Monday meeting.

Giovannelli confirmed with WINK News Tuesday afternoon she will bring a motion at the night’s meeting to remove the controversial poster from the current school year’s code of conduct.

“I’m all about owning up to the mistake I made, and this is rectifying my mistake,” Giovannelli said.

School board member Gwyn Gittens tried to do the same thing a couple weeks ago, but no one seconded her motion.

She told us she will support Giovannelli at the meeting.

“I said two weeks ago we can remove the poster, even temporarily, not negating all of our LGBTQ students, but let’s look at how we can include them include everyone,” Gittens said at the Monday meeting. “We need to let people know, ‘We’re listening to you. We hear you. We know there’s an issue.’”

Gittens and Giovannelli maintain board members were not briefed properly on the poster before they voted on it last June.

If the motion comes before the board, board Chair Debbie Jordan, “I would definitely want to hear that conversation that we would have before making a decision on that.”

“I think digitally it can be removed,” Giovanelli said. “The code of conduct has already been printed. That’s in there, so it’ll be a little difficult, but most parents haven’t seen it anyways, and that’s part of the problem.”

If the planned motion fails, Giovannelli and Gittens will likely work to rescind their votes from June 2020 that accepted the 2020-21 student code of conduct.