DCPS ends over 20-year relationship with LGBTQ advocacy group over ‘inappropriate’ materials

School district ‘evaluating’ remaining district partnerships to determine if additional resources are needed

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County Public Schools ended its decades-long services agreement with JASMYN, an organization that provides resources for the LGBTQ community, citing a social media post from the organization that contained materials deemed to be inappropriate for children.

News4JAX on Wednesday obtained a message from DCPS that Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene sent to principals announcing the school district’s decision to end its partnership with JASMYN, which provided support and resources for students, staff and the community.

“Many of you are aware of recent media attention surrounding the use of certain games and activities utilized by JASMYN as a part of their program for teens and young adults,” Greene wrote. “The district simply cannot partner with the organization given their use of program materials that the district believes to be inappropriate for use with children. We must protect the continued good work of our schools and GSA clubs and the work they do each day to ensure our schools remain safe spaces for all students.”

Greene states that “the termination of this agreement in no way impairs our continued commitment to all students and employees, including those that identify as LGBTQ +” and goes on to write that DCPS is currently evaluating its 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,” she wrote.

The “media attention,” was generated by a far-right blogger who called out a social media post by JASMYN. The blogger criticized a now-deleted post that showed images of a novelty adult card game and also featured a photo of adults playing the game on a card table.

News4JAX spoke with JASMYN CEO Cindy Watson, who said the Instagram post featuring the card game was a regrettable mistake, but that the game was never exposed to or played by any juvenile.

“We never use that game on our campus with teenagers or with 13-year-olds, in particular, we’ve never done sex education of any kind, including that game,” Watson told News4JAX. “In Duval County Public Schools with [Gay-Straight Alliance clubs], it’s not the nature of our work in the public schools. We focus with teenagers primarily on fighting bullying and harassment that they encounter every day.”

The full message sent by the superintendent can be viewed below.

Principals,

Many of you are aware of recent media attention surrounding the use of certain games and activities utilized by JASMYN as a part of their program for teens and young adults. Although JASMYN has been a partner to the district for over 20 years, providing support and resources for students, staff and the community, we have decided to terminate our current services agreement with their organization. The district simply cannot partner with the organization given their use of program materials that the district believes to be inappropriate for use with children. We must protect the continued good work of our schools and GSA clubs and the work they do each day to ensure our schools remain safe spaces for all students.

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 +. 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.

As we continue to develop plans to ensure strong layers of support are available for all students, please do not hesitate to reach out to Heather Albritton at albrittonH@duvalschools.org or Vamecia Powell at PowellV@duvalschools.org.

Kind regards,

Dr. Diana Greene, superintendent of Duval County Public Schools

In response to the district’s decision Wednesday, Watson issued the following statement.

The Duval County Public Schools terminated their contract with JASMYN to provide support for the Gay Straight Alliances afterschool clubs in 20 district schools abruptly this week.

This appears to be a hasty decision. DCPS issued a resolution recognizing our organization for the work we do in supporting LGBTQ students just a few years ago for our 25th anniversary! 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.

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. 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.

It would be unfortunate for the good work JASMYN has done in the community over our 28 year history to be overshadowed by extremists with no context about how HIV prevention work happens, why it is so important in Jacksonville or how it’s a public health practice and not something worthy of alarm.

CIndy Watson, CEO of JASMYN

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Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.