Project Initiation

In the wake of the mass shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016, we made two commitments: to provide immediate relief to those injured and to the families of those killed, and to honor the victims with action. We've kept the first promise by raising more than $9 million in relief aid - every penny of which will be distributed to victims’ families and those injured in the attack. But our lasting memorial to the lives lost must be to do the work of uprooting the anti-gay bigotry that led to this massacre. Our Safe and Healthy Schools Program is a pioneering new project to end LGBTQ bias where it begins, in our schools.

This program is different from our previous endeavors on behalf of LGBTQ youth, both in depth and scope. It aims to transform entire school systems by ensuring that the school districts themselves invest in and take full responsibility for meeting the needs of LGBTQ students. We expect that the first school systems we work with will have the requisite training and resources to take full ownership of the program’s outcomes and financial sustainability after three years, allowing Equality Florida Institute to move on to other school districts, with the goal of replicating this program in districts throughout the state.

The strategic outcomes we have been striving for since implementation are listed below.

  1. Co-produce the All Together Now conference, Florida's annual 2-day training summit for top district officials on the latest best practices for LGBTQ students.
  2. Assist districts in implementing comprehensive best practices and policies including:
    • Extensive and ongoing professional development for principals, assistant principals, faculty, school counselors, social workers, school nurses, bus drivers and cafeteria staff.
    • Counselors in all elementary, middle and high schools with training on supporting LGBTQ youth and their families.
    • A designated LGBTQ staff liaison at all schools who receives a minimum of 4 days of professional development annually on LGBTQ student policies, needs and resources.
    • Strong support clubs, such as Gay Straight Alliances
    • Districts implementing comprehensive LGBTQ policy and procedure manuals.
    • Deep partnerships with local LGBTQ youth agencies.
    • Highly visible and ongoing support from the Superintendent for LGBTQ students.
    • LGBTQ student mentoring and leadership development.
  3. Convene district-wide coalitions of LGBTQ youth-serving agencies and establish a regular meeting structure between these groups and top school district officials including the superintendent.
  4. Create a Safe and Healthy Schools Assessment Manual: The manual will be a comprehensive guide outlining nationally recognized best practices, programs, and policies for meeting the needs of LGBTQ students. The manual will provide a roadmap for districts eager to improve programs and will create urgency for districts unaware or indifferent to the unique needs of LGBTQ students. It will also serve as a measurement tool that ranks school districts on success in targeted areas. This will be the first resource of its kind created in the country and will be made immediately available to school districts throughout Florida.