Mention of LGBTQ Group Becomes Flashpoint at Broward County School Board Meeting

Broward County School Board member Brenda Fam was opposed to supporting a resolution that made mention of the Trevor Project. Screenshot.

A Broward County School Board resolution that should have passed swiftly led to a nearly one-hour debate — because there was a reference to the Trevor Project.

The suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth was listed in a resource guide for teachers for Spread the Word, a day for school children to promote inclusion, particularly with their special needs peers. The board was asked to vote on approving having Spread the Word brought to teachers, leading to much contention.

“The way we are talking about certain groups of students is as if they are not human and the Trevor Project is the nation’s leading crisis intervention and suicide hotline for LGBTQ students, so the fact that this is even a problem is beyond my comprehension,” said school board member Sarah Leonardi.

The resolution was spearheaded by Dr. Jennifer Valliere, a 19-year veteran of Broward County Public Schools as a special education teacher. She brought along students to speak before the board during its meeting on Feb. 21. Standing before the microphone, they shared their favorite parts about being in the Special Olympics and Best Buddies programs, including playing sports and making new friends.

Spread the Word started in 2009 with the goal to end the use of the word “retarded.” Since then, it has expanded to promote inclusion of all students, regardless of their intellectual or physical abilities. In the educator resource guide, teachers are instructed to “encourage students to reach out to sports teams, student government, service organizations, or other clubs focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, such as the Gay-Straight Alliance at your schools.”

It also lists the Trevor Project and as resources for “online safety and well-being.”

“If you’re not familiar with the Trevor Project, the Trevor Project doesn’t really recognize two sexes, they believe in transgendering children, young children, special needs children,” said Brenda Fam, a school board member. “I’m very, very disappointed that … it wasn’t transparent; that this was part of the deal of this resolution, because I believe in parents’ choice.”

She continued, “They also support transitioning young children behind parents’ backs. They also go beyond what’s allowed under the Florida parents’ rights act. We cannot be reaching out to kindergarten, first, second, third-graders with gender ideology and that’s what this is encouraging, and I think we’re going into a danger zone and that crosses the line.”

Parents in agreement with Fam spoke during public comment. One parent said, “All DEI stands for is ‘division, exclusion and ideology’” and pointed to the LGBTQ content on the Trevor Project’s social media, particularly pointing out chest binding. Another pointed out that when you visit the group’s website, there is a “quick exit” option for visitors to have the page closed — she questioned what they were trying to hide. Another said, “It’s about sexualizing our children. Stop it,” and another, “We don’t want sexualization of our kids in Broward schools.”

While all nine board members were in support of the resolution, they were divided on whether or not the tool kit should be provided to teachers.

“This resolution has nothing to do with the Trevor Project,” said board member Debra Hixon, who sponsored the resolution. “It is about these amazing people standing here before us, and to turn it into something else is really, really upsetting.”

Narnike Pierre Grant, a PTO member, encouraged the board to “stop nitpicking at everything.”

“The problem is [Valliere] came here with her students. We’re trying to elevate these children, and we’re nitpicking about resources. Resources. This is not something that was used to make a decision, it was just a resource,” she said. “Be prepared when you’re on the other side of it when we start nitpicking and picking things that you want. We can’t make everybody happy.”

Elena Cardet, who teaches alongside Valliere, tearfully came to her defense and touted her colleague’s work with special needs children.

“As a teacher, 22 years in, I don’t have time to indoctrinate any child,” Cardet said. “I am so busy trying to pass the science test and the math test and the writing test and everything else that I barely have time for social studies.”

After much discussion, the board finally took it to a vote. The motion to pass the resolution in support of Spread the Word with the Trevor Project removed failed 6-3; in a revote with the resolution as it was originally presented, it passed 6-2.

Fam did not vote, instead walking out of the chambers saying, “I’m sorry, I’m gone.”


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