News (USA)

Florida school axes anti-LGBTQ bullying prevention measure because of Don’t Say Gay law

Boy student getting bullied in school
Photo: Shutterstock

Students in a Florida school district can no longer access a training video aimed at helping prevent anti-LGBTQ bullying thanks to the state’s recently enacted “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Duval County Public Schools removed the 12-minute video, which had been used in the district’s All In for Safe Schools program, from YouTube according to an investigation by WJCT Public Media’s Jacksonville Today.

Related: Students across Florida walkout of classes in protest of “Don’t say gay” bill

Duval Schools District spokesperson Tracy Pierce confirmed that the video had “been removed for legal review to ensure the content complies with recent state legislation.”

According to Gay Straight Alliance faculty sponsor Scott Sowell, the video was created for students with the input of Duval LGBTQ students with funding from a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant.

“The video was co-written by some students, and so it had very student-appropriate and student-specific language that was, you know, teenagers talking to other teenagers,” Sowell said. “It’s one critical resource that is now no longer available to teachers to help support students.”

The video was designed for middle and high school students, grades six through 12.

The Parental Rights in Education bill, signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in March, bans instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through grade three and restricts instruction on those topics that is not “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate” in other grades.

But the guidelines as to what is “age appropriate or developmentally appropriate” for older students have not been issued yet, and the provision of the law covering grades six through 12 will not take effect until they are, according to guidance released by the Florida Department of Education in June.

“If the district or individuals in the legal team are being held to a specific law, or piece of legislation or mandate that they have to change and edit this, then hopefully, they’ll be as transparent and communicate those changes to everyone involved so things just don’t just disappear,” Sowell said.

The school board is also scheduled to vote next week on a new policy that would require schools to notify parents if students want to use different names or pronouns in unofficial records, like ID cards and yearbooks, potentially outing transgender students.

Previously, Duval County Schools superintendent Dr. Diana Greene instructed her staff to remove the district’s LGBTQ support guide from its website. Greene also directed staff to conduct a “comprehensive review” of the decade-old document aimed at “consolidating” training and guidance for school staff in response to Florida’s new legislation, commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

“I want to be crystal clear that our support for students who identify as LGBTQ+ has not wavered,” Greene said in June. “My full expectation is that our LGBTQ+ children are emotionally and physically safe in our schools, and that our school staff are prepared to address any circumstance while respecting the rights and dignity of all students.”

The Duval County developments are just the latest indication of the far-reaching effects of the “Don’t Say Gay” law in Florida schools. In late June, teachers in Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) reported that they’ve been told not to display pictures of their same-sex spouses, not to wear rainbows, and to remove safe-space stickers from their classroom doors.

Elsewhere in the state, new provisions to the Leon County School Board’s “LGBTQ Inclusive School Guide” requires the school to notify parents if a student who is “open about their gender identity” is in a physical education class or will be present on an overnight trip, potentially outing trans and gender-nonconforming students to their classmates’ parents.

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