Duval County Public Schools pulled the video as part of its removal of LGBTQ resources “to ensure the content complies with recent state legislation.”
A Florida school district has removed a 12-minute video that teaches middle and high school students to prevent bullying and support their LGBTQ peers.
This was done in response to Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ “Don’t Say Gay Law”, which bans schools across the state from discussing “sexual orientation or gender identity” in primary grade levels.
Duval County Public Schools removed the anti-bullying video, which was co-written by some students, as part of its removal of LGBTQ resources and materials, and “to ensure the content complies with recent state legislation,” according to district spokesperson Tracy Pierce.
“It had very student-appropriate and student-specific language that was, you know, teenagers talking to other teenagers,” Gay-Straight Alliance faculty sponsor Scott Sowell told Jacksonville today.
This is not Duval county’s first move to comply with the law that went into effect July 1. Last fall, the district removed a LGBTQ Support Guide and drafted support guidance that removed many of the protections for transgender students. On Monday the school board will vote on a policy that could require schools to notify parents if students change their names or pronouns on unofficial records, such as yearbooks and ID cards.
But Duval County Public Schools isn’t the only school district in Florida removing its LGBTQ resources and support. In June, Orange County Public School District (OCPS) discouraged teachers from discussing their same-sex partners or displaying their photos. It also instructed them to refrain from wearing rainbow clothing and to remove LGBTQ classroom decorations, like “Safe Space” stickers.
Putting Youth in Danger
Opponents of DeSantis’ law call it a hateful attack on the state’s young LGBTQ population, which already faces greater risk of self-harm and suicide.
“My biggest fear is that these kids will not feel safe in the classroom,” said Heather Wilkie, the executive director of the Zebra Coalition, an organization in Central Florida providing mental health counseling and housing services to LGBTQ youth.
These resources do make a difference, says Javier Gomez, president of the Gay-Straight Alliance chapter at Miami’s iPrep Academy. In February, Gomez testified to lawmakers in Tallahassee that without the help of the school counselors and teachers who supported him, he wouldn’t be standing before them.
A Message of Hope
In response, Florida human and LGBTQ rights groups continue to denounce and fight against the law that many call “hateful.” Among them is Democrat Rep. Carlos G Smith (D49).
“To those LGBTQ youth in Florida and around the world struggling to find support, just know that you are loved exactly the way you are,” said Florida’s first LGBTQ Latino legislator. “We’ll continue to fight for you every single day because your lives are worth fighting for.”