Once again, Broward County is blazing new trails for the rights of LGBTQA students in Florida. Tuesday, March 2nd the school board unanimously passed a resolution in full support of The National Day Of Silence. The National Day of silence is a national student led action that takes place every year in protest of the epedemic of bullying and harrassment against LGBTQA students. Resolutions like these are increasingly important as the far right begins ramping up their so called "Day of Truth" which aims to demoralize Day of Silence participants and supporters.
(PHOTO, Broward GSA Leaders gather with Equality Florida GSA Network Staff and BCPS teachers at GSA Network Summit.)
Broward County continues to set the standard for outher school districts throughout the state in respect to LGBTQA students. They designed an incredibly inclusive antibullying policy which has been used as a model to other districts in the state. They were also the first Florida school district to step up and formally partner with Equality Florida's GSA Network in 2009 to provide leadership training to Gay-Straight Alliance Club leaders. Broward County is bravely showing the kind of leadership LGBTQA Florida Students desperately need.
Check out the press release regarding their passage of the resolution below.
School Board of Broward County Affirms Safe Schools for LGBT Youth
Fort Lauderdale, FL – On Tuesday, March 2, 2010, for the second consecutive year, The School Board of Broward County, FL, voted unanimously to affirm its support for the National Day of Silence observed on April 16, 2010, one of the largest student-led actions in the country sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). The purpose of the National Day of Silence is for students to silently and peacefully protest anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) bullying, harassment, and name-calling. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), because students who are targeted for anti-gay or anti-transgender bullying often do not identify as LGBT, the Day of Silence represents a peaceful a protest of a problem that affects all students no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The board resolution was once again sponsored by Broward County School Board Chairwoman Jennifer Gottlieb who recognizes the critical role for the National Day of Silence as an effective tool in the fight for equal protections of all Broward County students. Below is a statement School Board Chairwoman Gottlieb read on behalf of the District’s Office of Prevention Programs:
“The resolution for the ‘National Day of Silence’ is more than a simple recognition supporting an LGBTQ/sexual minority activity in April. The resolution speaks to the importance of building a broader, critical, cultural norm in our school district.
Providing our LGBTQ/sexual minority youth and their allies the opportunity to bring awareness to the issues of discrimination and prejudice that shadow this youth population every day is a responsibility of our educational system.
Empowering youth to reach out, connect and collaborate with their greater school population on this specified day provides a vehicle for peace building that is a human right. There is no greater place than the American school, to teach about issues that serve to strengthen our morality, our obligation to serve our community and our ability to make a stand for those that are marginalized. This is the premise behind the National Day of Silence resolution.”
Prior to the Board’s unanimous vote, School Board Members Stephanie Kraft, Phyllis Hope, Ann Murray, Maureen Dinnen and Robin Bartleman engaged in a heartfelt discussion voicing their strong support to ramp up on programs to reduce bullying in Broward County Public Schools.
The Board’s Student Advisor and Alternate Student Advisor also spoke in support of National Day of Silence. Both self-identifying as heterosexual, shared their experience of speaking with classmates and students throughout the District who all support having activities that ensure for greater protection and inclusion of LGBTQ students. The Board’s Alternate Student Advisor shared with the Board of the model created at Nova High School and the value these efforts contribute to safer schools for their classmates, but more specifically, their LGBTQ peers.
During an earlier agenda item, the Board’s Student Advisor shared with the board that during his past visits with various schools throughout the District, that students are asking for the District to ramp up on its sex-education curriculum and programming. Students reported not getting the information they need to make smarter and healthier choices.
Jeanne Jusevic and Michael Emanuel Rajner, who both serve on the District’s Diversity Committee, spoke as Broward County residents in support of the resolution. Jusevic, a mother, parent activist and of Mormon faith, spoke passionately about having a gay brother living with AIDS, a lesbian aunt shared the story of her son’s adolescent friend who was rejected from his home simply for being openly gay. Jusevic also urged the School Board to support the resolution and made it clear that all students have the right to feel safe in our schools. Rajner spoke as an openly-gay man living with AIDS and urged for vigilant efforts to be implemented at the middle school level where data consistently shows an increased incidence and prevalence of bully and suicide of LGBT youth. Rajner also advised the board to reject any criticism from parents fueled by American Family Association (AFA), Liberty Counsel and other organizations with a mission to actively marginalize LGBT youth. Rajner shared an example of the divisive harm these organizations are culpable when he briefed the Board on the recent spike at the end of 2009 in new HIV-infections of self identified gay Black men under the age of 24 who are not receiving age-appropriate comprehensive sex-education in the schools or at home. Rajner noted that the lobbying efforts of these organizations contribute to the State of Florida’s failure to adopt legislation which would establish a statewide minimum standard for sex-education and reject the legalized discrimination of LGBT youth based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. According to the Florida Department of Health, Florida ranks third (3) in the nation, behind New York and California in the total number of HIV/AIDS cases.