Emails provided to Tallahassee Reports shows that Equality Florida – an advocacy group for LGBTQ issues – is influencing decisions by Montford Middle School officials related to a controversial campaign to identify classrooms as safe places for certain students.
The emails show a debate among Montford school officials about a request to teachers by the school’s Gay Straight Alliance club coordinator to place safe place flags in classrooms ahead of the October 11th -“Coming Out Day.”
One teacher noted concerns from her colleagues in a September 29th email to Montford Principal Lewis Blessing.
The teacher wrote, “I’m concerned about GSA flags being displayed unless we’re allowing that for all. Is this something that has been approved by you? I’ve gotten some concerns from a few teachers; do you mind following up on this? I’ll return tomorrow but I’m looking into it.”
Another teacher voiced concern on the same day, in a separate email.
The teacher wrote, ” I have concerns. We don’t promote religion in our classrooms. There are many religious groups represented in our schools, but our school is a safe place for people of ALL religions. Therefore, we don’t display Christian flags, the Quran, etc. except for cultural or history lessons. I feel that designating safe places based on lifestyle choices should be treated similarly. I don’t feel it is our place to promote nor disparage lifestyle choices. Our ENTIRE school should be a safe place for ALL, and I fear that flags may build separation and the idea that there are places in our school that are NOT safe for everyone.”
Principal Blessing responded to concerns on September 29th by stating that “I have a call in to Dr. Rodgers to get some more information about this but I believe it is a district supported initiative. It is also not mandatory for any teachers to display the flag. This would be similar to have a pray at the flag pole day. It is optional for anyone that wants to participate but not mandatory for anyone that does not feel comfortable. I will let you know when I hear back from Dr. Rodgers.”
Dr. Kathleen Rodgers is the Assistant Superintendent Equity Officer and Title IX Compliance Coordinator Office of Prevention, Intervention, Equity and Support Services for the Leon County School District.
On October 4th, at the direction of Dr. Rodgers, an email from Equality Florida was sent to all Gay Straight Alliance club sponsors.
The email from Equality Florida addressed in detail the topics listed below:
1) “The Impact of Gender Affirming Spaces for LGBTQ+ Youth”
2) Powerful Youth Blog Post for October’s LGBT History Month,
3) August Federal Ruling/Gavin Grimm Transgender Case, and
4) US DOE’s Confronting Anti-LGBTQI+Harassment in Schools Tool.
TR has previously reported on this topic and was told by Principal Blessing that the campaign had been paused until further review. And on October 5th, Blessing told TR that there was no further update on the issue.
Also, TR inquired about the Leon County School Board district policy regarding social campaigns in middle schools. We have yet to receive a formal response.