JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An organization of Duval County Public Schools teachers and staff plan to speak out against the district’s recent decision to cut ties with a local LGBTQ advocacy group, JASMYN.
“JASMYN has been the only source of meaningful support for GSA (Gay-Dtraight Alliance) club[s] across the district, and this decision will cause great harm to these clubs,” the group said in a press release Monday. “The superintendent made this decision without consulting a single student, teacher, or staff member. And we are demanding she reverse this decision, immediately.”
The decision to sever the over 20-year working relationship came after a social media post from the organization that showed images of an adult novelty card game, marketed toward those 18 years or older. The game has players match cartoon images of male genitals.
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In response to backlash over the now-deleted post, JASMYN CEO Cindy Watson said that the post was a mistake, but that the district’s decision was ultimately “hasty,” as the game had never been played by or exposed to children, other than those who might follow the Instagram page.
“While it is regrettable that we posted something on social media in a way that could be so misunderstood, JASMYN has a long history in Northeast Florida of providing safe and affirming space for LGBTQ young people,” Watson stated. “Our work encompasses mental health programs, housing resources, HIV prevention and health services and teen programs, all essential to helping LGBTQ+ young people be whole and healthy.”
The district defended its decision, saying it was the result of JASMYN’s inappropriate “program materials,” though the group denies that the card game is part of any program or materials JASMYN uses in its GSA sponsorships or anti-bullying campaigns with DCPS.
“JASMYN is unaware of how the decision was made, only that it seems to be an overreaction to a far-right extremist website spreading inflammatory misinformation about our HIV prevention work with young adults,” Watson said.
Greene said that the district’s “commitment to all students and employees” will not change.
“I want to make it very clear that the termination of this agreement in no way impairs our continued commitment to all students and employees, including those that identify as LGBTQ+,” Greene’s message said. “We are currently evaluating our remaining district partnerships to determine if additional resources are needed. In the interim, staff from the Office of Equity and Inclusion and Health and Physical Education department will provide an additional layer of support to schools and families as needed.”
Some parents of student GSA club members, like former teacher Matt Hartley, are concerned that the administration’s stance on LGBTQ support has been slipping due to political pressures.
“We have to reach out to our schools, we have to reach out to our school board members, and we have to support our LGBTQ youth,” Hartley said. “Things are scary right now and we need to stand strong and support.”
Tuesday night’s meeting will also see the school board vote on the approval of the district’s Supplemental Health Education Materials For Reproductive Health And Disease Prevention, which includes sex education curriculum that had been halted and then revised due to concerns over recently passed state laws.