Students staged a walkout at their South Florida high school Tuesday after the principal and other staffers were reassigned over a transgender student being allowed to play on a girls volleyball team.

The employees at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek, north of Fort Lauderdale, were moved to nonschool sites amid an investigation into “allegations of improper student participation in sports,” the local school district confirmed.

“Although we cannot comment further, we will continue to follow state law and will take appropriate action based on the outcome of the investigation,” John Sullivan, Broward County Public Schools’ chief communications and legislative affairs officer, said in a statement.

Students conduct a walkout Tuesday after the principal and other staff members were removed from their positions at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek, Florida.
Students conduct a walkout Tuesday after the principal and other staff members were removed from their positions at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek, Florida.

D.A. Varela/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

With the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in 2021 made it law that transgender girls and women cannot play on female sports teams at schools.

Peter Licata, the superintendent at Broward County Public Schools, said the employees were relocated after a constituent called him directly last week about “some factors that were not appropriate for girls volleyball.”

“We want to do this right,” Licata said at a Tuesday press conference. “Nobody’s guilty of anything at this point. That’s what the investigation is for.”

A spokesperson for Florida’s Education Department said it expects “serious consequences” for anyone who breaks state law.

“Under Governor DeSantis, boys will never be allowed to play girls’ sports. It’s that simple,” the spokesperson said in an email. “As soon as the Department was notified that a biological male was playing on a girls’ team in Broward County, we instructed the district to take immediate action since this is a direct violation of Florida law.”

Monarch High School Principal James Cecil and an assistant principal, athletic director and information management technician were identified as the employees relocated. A school athletic coach, who was working on a temporary basis, also had his services paused amid the investigation, the school district said.

During their demonstration on a school athletic field, students held signs and chanted “trans lives matter” and “bring back Cecil,” according to NBC 6 South Florida, which captured aerial footage of the protest.

Students, speaking with local media, shared their reactions to the volleyball team controversy.

“I don’t think it should be a problem big enough for you to have the school’s principal reassigned,” one student told WSVN. “At the end of the day, that’s just an extracurricular.”

“I don’t agree with that. He shouldn’t be allowed to play on the team,” another student told the outlet, referring to the transgender volleyball player. “If he’s a biological boy, I don’t think he should play on the team.”

Safe Schools South Florida, a local LGBTQ+ organization for students, called the employees’ relocation an overreaction and a “glaring misjudgment.”

“The reassignment of faculty is a measure typically reserved for the gravest of infractions,” the organization said in a statement. “We urgently call upon Broward Schools to reconsider their approach to this matter.”

Cecil did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Earlier this month, a federal court dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Broward County high school student’s family that challenged the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act as unconstitutional.

The student, who was born male but is transgender, has been taking hormone blockers since age 11, and throughout middle school she played on a school soccer team and in a recreational league for girls, according to the lawsuit. Under current law, however, she’s barred from participating in school sports that match her gender identity.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled that the law does not violate Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in education, or the U.S. Constitution.

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