TAMPA, Fla — School districts across the state reached record levels of teacher vacancies this past school year, and many left the profession saying they’re under paid, and overworked.

What You Need To Know

  • The new act is worring some educators

  • They claim it's confusing and fear it may affect LGBTQ educators the most

  • Some educators are preemptively leaving the field

Now, adding to that exodus — the Parental Rights in Education Act. Equality Florida said some LGBTQ educators are changing careers because of the law, which states they can lose their teaching license if they’re found to be in violation. 

Despite that, one Polk County School Administrator said while she is worried about the potential ramifications, she will not willingly quit her career.

At home, Daffne Cruz is just Mom. Her daughter Layla has a picture she drew of her family. It’s not necessarily a traditional family, and Layla is extremely proud. She has two moms, Cruz and her wife, Ayla.  

The couple also has a side photography business, and both work full-time for Polk County Schools. She is an assistant principal at a high school, and her wife is an elementary school teacher.

“Since high school we knew that we wanted to go into education, went to college for education. It’s been on that track to be the representation that we didn’t have when we were younger,” said Cruz.

She says growing up, she didn’t have any Latino role models in school, and no one who she knew to be part of the LGBTQ community like her. She said that’s why she teaches “authenticity over acceptance.”

“There’s no reason to hide who you are. There’s no reason to not truly be yourself because being yourself truly is your super power,” she said. 

But now, Cruz says it’s her LGBTQ colleagues needing that advice. She said she knows teachers who’ve considered quitting because of the Parental Rights in Education Act.

“It’s sad. I’ve had some teachers even ask me, do I have to take a picture of my spouse down? How do you think it’s going to affect me? There’s fear.”

Since the bill became law, she said she’s worried about her daughter talking about her two moms at school, so she can understand other LGBTQ teachers’ concerns.

“These are the same teachers giving countless hours inside the classroom, outside of contract hours. They take their time to get to know these students, we’re with them 8-10 hours a day, and I think it’s sad they have to live with that type of fear of the repercussions of just being themselves.”

She said she’ll continue to be herself at school, and her goal is to show that she’s a great educator, regardless of who she loves.  

Supporters of the Parental Rights in Education Act say it’s not meant to incite fear or target LGBTQ educators, but they say it’s meant to keep parents informed and keep any discussion about sex or sexuality out of the classroom.

“Obviously conversations are going to happen. It’s not a discriminatory bill where if you as a teacher are gay you’re not allowed to be there and talk about your family, that’s really ridiculous, and I understand the fear but that’s not what you should be worried about,” said Aly Legge with Moms for America.

Legge said there are students who can’t read, or write, on their grade level, and she feels that should be the educator’s primary focus.