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Just weeks after threesome scandal, Bridget Ziegler flexes her political muscle again

Written by on Wednesday, May 8, 2024

The school board passes her anti-LGBTQ resolution, despite their lawyer’s concerns.


By Johannes Werner

Original Air Date: May 8, 2024

Host: It was another Bridget Ziegler day at the Sarasota School Board meeting yesterday, and culture war was raging. This time, it’s about the Title IX federal anti-discrimination law. Chair Karen Rose – who is up for re-election – was the biggest cheerleader for the Moms for Liberty firebrand, convincing everyone on the dais – minus the usual dissenter Tom Edwards – to tag along with Bridget. Except the school board lawyer, that is. Patrick Duggan recommended the school board members do the “prudent” thing.

Patrick Duggan: Voting on this, from my opinion, would be a departure on how we typically proceed, because of the way it is listed under ‘board member comments’. I mean, this to me seems inconsistent with the way you have approached this issue in the past. I think the best practice would be to put it on the next board meeting for vote. Without getting into the legal weeds here, is it technically sufficient? It might be technically sufficient. It’s inconsistent with how this board has handled these issues in the past. There’s two statutes that apply here. There’s Florida Statute 286.011 And Florida Statute 286.014. And you read those, they require a meeting to be noticed. I think we have a noticed meeting, right. Number one, the meeting be open to the public. Obviously there’s 100 people here today, with 70 who spoke. So I think that’s probably covered. Members of the public must be given a reasonable opportunity to be heard before an official action is taken. I think we heard 70 people. I think this is an official action, by the way. I think this is more than a ceremonial proclamation. You’re asking the superintendent essentially to hold off on passing a policy. So I do think it’s an official action. In your own book you have a policy that says ‘You shall not take action on an item unless such an item has been placed on the agenda’. I mean, look, we have an agenda here with 37 items on it. Only 36 of them have recommendations and financial impacts and who to contact and a lengthy description. This one does not. So that’s why I say, I think that this technically complies, and you could vote on it, but it’s certainly a departure from how you guys have done it in the past. I think it minimally complies with the law, if you all wish to vote on it today. I just I wanted to point out that this is not how we normally do it from a transparency standpoint.

Johannes Werner: Rose pushed back against the lawyer’s advice, and four of the five chose to vote for a resolution proposed by Ziegler that criticizes a new twist of federal anti-discrimination laws.

At stake are at least $50 million in federal funding for Sarasota students, including those with disabilities and from low-income families.

Edwards, who is also up for re-election, expressed his frustration about the return of culture wars and the vote.

Tom Edwards: My heart was honestly in the right place, to try and tamp down public comments. But the immigration comment and all of the things that have been going on in the school board room for the last 90 days, and the way I view this resolution is no more than what Mrs. Ziegler said: ‘Game on!’. And that’s politics 100% of the time. So pass it if you will.

JW: But let’s back up. Ahead of the five-hour meeting, Ziegler circulated a six-point resolution she wanted her four colleagues to approve, pushing back against new Federal Title IX policies that now include LGBTQ people as a protected class. 

The State of Florida filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration’s executive decision to include this class of people, and a ruling is expected this summer. This is what lawyer Duggan referred to when he recommended to first let the process play out.

In the meantime, Ziegler wanted the school district to go on the record in opposition to the Biden administration’s move. Very predictably, Ziegler’s proposed resolution prompted both pushback and support, with 73 speakers signed up for public comment, ballooning what could have been a short meeting into five hours. She said she had received more than 1,000 emails urging her to make the motion. 

All speakers – one way or another – responded to Ziegler’s resolution. The experience of a trans high school student who feels pressed into girls’ bathrooms he doesn’t want to be in, came back-to-back with the testimony of a grandmother warning of Sodom and Gomorrah and the wrath of God.

Following the lawyer’s note of caution, board member Tim Enos argued he would prefer to hold off on the vote until next month, but ultimately uttered “yes” anyway, after a dramatic pause before his voice vote. Ziegler said there was no precedent of the feds defunding any school districts. And in anticipatory outrage, Robyn Marinelli said that, if the Biden administration did it, this would be “extremist”.

With that, the Sarasota School District is now on the record opposing the inclusion of LGBTQ persons in anti-discrimination practice. Which has many in the public worried. Here’s one speaker at yesterday’s meeting.

Public comment: You’re all aflutter with the idea of robbing Sarasota of $107 million. Just so you can inflict more pain on LGBTQ students and members of the community. $107 million! That affects all of Sarasota, not just the members you’re targeting. Honestly, I’m aghast. It takes an otherworldly amount of political narcissism to even consider the totality of what you’re considering to do to all of Sarasota.

JW: Activists put out a figure of $107 million in federal funding for Sarasota schools, more than twice as much as the figure rigid Ziegler produced.

For WSLR News, this has been Johannes Werner.

 

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