Florida teacher Casey Scott fired after discussing sexual orientation
A Cape Coral art teacher was let go after discussing LGBTQ+ topics in the classroom, the latest example of a Florida classroom controversy stoking a culture war over parental rights in education.
Casey Scott, a first-year art teacher at Trafalgar Middle School, was released from her probationary contract on April 18 following a complaint that she had been teaching lessons about different flags as they related to gender and sexuality.
Lee County Schools Spokesperson Rob Spicker told the News-Press that she was released for not following the state-mandated curriculum.
Scott began working for the school in August 2021 as her first teaching job. She could not be reached for comment as of Thursday afternoon.
The firing came three weeks after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill — into law on March 28 — which prohibits teachers from providing “classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity” to K-3 students and to higher grade levels in a “manner that is not age-appropriate.”
The new law, dubbed by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, does not go into effect until July 1.
More school news:Southwest Florida students react to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ walkout
Florida bans math textbooks:Lee, Collier schools to comply with state’s rejection of 54 math textbooks
Art teacher tells students she is pansexual, records show
According to records obtained by The News-Press, Scott told school investigators that she was inspired to come out to her students and teach them about various pride flags after she had told her family she was pansexual the day prior.
“I wanted to show these kids that it’s better to be open about ourselves than to hide it away,” Scott wrote in a statement to the school district.
School officials received a complaint from a parent the same day of her lesson, explaining that her child had come home and reported that Scott had discussed pride flags with them, her own sexuality, and asked the class to create their own flag, records show.
Multiple student statements confirm that students were encouraged by Scott to create a pride flag or any other kind of flag they felt “represented them.” The statements also show that Scott told students she was pansexual, after displaying the pansexual pride flag.
She also urged students not to be afraid to go to her if they ever needed to talk about their own identities and told school officials that many of her students had been “coming out to her.”
Lee County School District’s investigation
The district conducted an investigation of these events taking statements from school officials and students, which encompassed the four days leading to her firing.
The News-Press obtained emails from parents and school officials, and handwritten testimony from students, as well as correspondence between Scott and school officials after her firing.
School officials like Principal Rachel Gould and the school counselor Mary Culleton- Burchers went into the classroom and investigated the issue.
“The teacher, Mrs. Scott, talked about how excited she was that she came out as polyamorous the day before and she felt that it was important for her to be a good role model to her students,” Gould wrote in an email to staff members.
Gould told Scott the school counselor should be the one handling these matters.
“Ms. Gould did explain that being a role example as a teacher does include following the district policies regardless of personal feelings,” Culleton-Burchers wrote in her statement on the events.
In correspondence with school officials and in a letter to the Florida Department of Education, Scott expressed that she had not received adequate training that would have informed her what she was not or was allowed to say about her gender or sexuality in the classroom.
“Not once did anyone from my administration ever explain to me any topic that I was not to allow or discuss…as a first-year art teacher in a reinstated class with zero art teaching experience it is reasonable to expect…a mentor to help oversee and give me guidance but, none was offered?” Scott wrote.
One student wrote that they were present in the classroom while Scott was making pride flags but that Scott “does not make anybody do any of that if they don’t want to.”
Another student wrote that Scott told the class that she was coming out as pansexual and wrote “I didn’t really know what it meant until she started getting into detail.”
Some students said they felt her coming out was “uncomfortable” and “weird.”
Scott also went on to explain how she has a husband and girlfriend. The student said that “I thought that was a little weird because she is telling a class of 6th and 7th graders all that.”
A student wrote that Scott told them to follow her on TikTok, where the student later saw a video of Scott coming out as pansexual.
Scott wrote in both her statement and email to the district that she was willing to stop talking about her personal life and avoid projects like the flags again.
Complaint sent to Florida Department of Education
Kevin Daly, president of the Teachers Association in Lee County and a 25-year teacher, said the school can legally fire her.
“She’s a probationary employee. A law passed several years ago that moved the probationary period from 90 days to a full year, a whole calendar year. Within that probationary period they can terminated without cause,” Daly said.
Records obtained by The News-Press show the school district filed a complaint against Scott with the Florida Department of Education.
“As a matter of practice, the District regularly sends investigative reports to DOE for review and we are doing so in this case,” Spicker told The News-Press.
The Florida Department of Education reviews complaints for jurisdiction and legal sufficiency. If determined to be legally sufficient, a case is opened and assigned to an investigator. The results of an investigation are then reviewed by Department of Education attorneys and presented to the Commissioner of Education who determines if the educator’s conduct warrants disciplinary action against the educator’s teaching certificate.