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Duval Schools terminates contract with LGBTQ+ support organization

The district has previously cut down its LGBTQ+ Support Guide, deleted an anti-bullying video and forced teachers to take down All In for Safe Schools posters from their classrooms.
Claire Heddles
Jacksonville Today
Residents wait outside the Duval Schools administration building to discuss LGBTQ issues at a recent School Board meeting.

Duval County Public Schools has ended a 20-year relationship with JASMYN, Northeast Florida’s leading LGBTQ support organization for young people.

In an email to principals Wednesday, Superintendent Diana Greene said the decision was because of inappropriate "program materials."

CEO Cindy Watson called the move "an overreaction to a far right extremist website spreading inflammatory misinformation about our HIV prevention work with young adults."

JASMYN supported Gay-Straight Alliances in 20 schools and worked with the district to educate teachers, parents and students about LGBTQ+ support services in the community. The organization's contract provided for a maximum payment of $45,000 per year.

The district terminated the contract Monday after a right-wing news outlet, The Florida Standard, published two JASMYN Instagram posts — since deleted — showing a card game using photos of genitals. A Canadian conservative website, The Post Millennial, later picked up the story.

"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," Greene wrote to principals. "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."

Watson said the Instagram post was to promote their HIV testing services for young adults, not an activity for kids.

"It is not true that we play this card game, or anything sexually explicit like this, with young people under the age of 17 — certainly not with 13 year olds at JASMYN," Watson said. "It's also untrue that we did any kind of activity like that in GSA clubs in the schools. In fact, we don't do any sex education with young people in the schools."

Greene said the terminated contract does not reflect on the district’s commitment to “all students and employees, including those who identify as LGBTQ."

The district has been criticized, however, for actions related to LGBTQ students. The district previously cut down its LGBTQ+ Support Guide, deleted an anti-bullying video and forced teachers to take down All In for Safe Schools posters from their classrooms, following Florida's new Parental Rights in Education law.

Claire joined WJCT as a reporter in August 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. During her time in East Tennessee, her coverage of the COVID pandemic earned a Public Media Journalists’ Association award for investigative reporting. You can reach Claire at (904) 250-0926 or on Twitter @ClaireHeddles.