Safe Schools South Florida has been working with LGBTQ students and teachers in Miami-Dade and Broward counties for more than 30 years. We were founded in an era when simply acknowledging one’s background set the stage for firings, harassment, and physical harm. We have worked hard for several decades to create supportive spaces in schools.
Now, we face our greatest challenge yet.
An awful bill, the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, has been devastating in the short time it has been in place. Teachers are scared. Administrations are uncertain. School boards waver. Students suffer. And now the Florida Legislature is poised to expand its prohibitions to cover all grades, K-8. Many of us thought these battles were passed.
To combat these hurdles, Safe Schools South Florida has directed much of our resources toward online programming, such as YouTube TV shows, podcasts, and increased use of social media. We are still able to reach our youth, but on platforms that can’t be censored.
Some of our programs focus on student leadership. Others are just fun. We’ve broadcast messages of support from celebrities like Jason Rodriguez, who starred on the FX Network TV series, ‘Pose.’ We’re currently in development of new programs that will further educate and entertain. We’ve also hosted several Zoom town halls for students, giving them a chance to interact with other kids. This has helped expand our outreach beyond South Florida. We’ve hosted students from Los Angeles, Salem, Massachusetts, and even Tokyo.
We have hired several new staff members, each with a unique role in bringing our digital programs to life. For instance, our Social Media Host will oversee a weekly program focusing on queer youth interests. It will be a hybrid show, combining traditional news studio footage with on-the-street interviews. We’ve already interviewed attendees at events like the recent Florida AIDS Walk.
Our new digital content creator will cover queer pop culture, including music, anime, and current events. “Tiffany Explains It All” will allow youth to interact with one another on fascinating but not-so-weighty interests. And we haven’t forgotten the adults. “We are Family” will be a podcast designed for queer parents, as well as parents of queer youth. Resources for school faculty will also be provided. And all of it will pop to life via the graphic and production talents of additional new team members.
Of course, we stand with the drag community and will also broadcast drag story episodes, where special guests dive into popular (and sometimes banned) youth book titles.
During April, we are teaming with Hot Spots News Channel to present a one-day leadership summit bringing college students from local universities to a television studio. They’ll talk about important issues like pending anti-LGBTQ Florida legislation, voter registration, and civic engagement. Thousands of viewers will be able to tune in on channels on Apple TV, Roku TV, Facebook, and YouTube. The program will also feature Q&A from a live studio audience.
To round it all out, high school students will be special hosts and correspondents. It will give them a great experience in media and current events. And they’ll be able to count their hours served toward community-service requirements, as well as qualify for the many scholarships we award.
These are incredibly challenging times. “Don’t Say Gay” is likely to be in place for at least the next decade. Without clear direction on what is and is not allowable, educators err on the side of caution so as not to jeopardize their jobs. In the meantime, LGBTQ youth in desperate need of support are denied access to in-school programming. Safe Schools South Florida is excited that we have pivoted our programs to meet the unique, challenging circumstances of the day.
We encourage you to share this information with friends, fellow performers, and allies and join us in bringing awareness to this bill before it becomes law. Your support is essential for our ongoing efforts to create safe spaces for all students, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or expression. Please consider donating to Safe Schools so that we can continue advocating for inclusivity and diversity within the education system.