The Miami-Dade school district — the fourth largest in the nation — on Thursday joined other districts across the state of Florida in protecting students from bullying based upon gender identity or sexual orientation.
The move by the Miami-Dade school board to add sexual orientation and gender identity to its anti-discrimination and harassment policy was greeted with praise by both Equality Florida and the Miami-Dade Safe Schools Coalition who have been working diligently for years to pass such protections.
Equality Florida, in a statement on its website, recognized that their victory was not just based upon lobbying the school board, but also because of grassroots activism.
In addition to working closely with the 30+ organizations that make up our Miami-Dade Safe Schools Coalition, Equality Florida has also been on the ground in Miami-Dade schools, training students to lead Gay Straight Alliances (GSA’s) and training their adult GSA advisors.
Currently, nearly 40 Miami-Dade GSAs are part of our Florida GSA Network, one of the fastest growing state networks in the nation.
“For the past year we’ve focused on strengthening Miami-Dade’s anti-bullying policy as a way to create a climate where bullying a student because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and/or gender identity is no longer tolerated,” said C.J. Ortuno, executive director of SAVE Dade. SAVE Dade worked with their partner the ACLU of Florida in developing the policy’s new language.
But Equality Florida, noting that this move only covers 1.55 million of the states schoolchildren, 60 percent, said that more work needs to be done on the issue of LGBT bullying and harassment.
“This is a tipping point for the state but our work continues until every school district large and small provides these vital protections,” said Stratton Pollitzer, Equality Florida Deputy Director.