March 31, 2011
CONTACT: ACLU of Florida Media Office, (786) 363-2737 or media@aclufl.org

VOLUSIA COUNTY – The School Board of Volusia County on Tuesday evening unanimously approved adding “gender identity or expression” to the district’s policy prohibiting student bullying and harassment.

"We are very happy to see this important policy adopted,” said George Griffin, President of the Volusia-Flagler Chapter of ACLU of Florida. “We’ve been working with the Board and the community for more than a year to take this step forward to make students and schools safer.”

Griffin and the Volusia-Flagler Chapter began working to get explicit protections based on “gender identity or expression” added to the policy after the mother of a student brought concerns about the treatment of her child in a Volusia school to the ACLU’s attention.

During the Tuesday Board meeting, Griffin read a statement from the mother: “We have spoken to individuals and organizations across the state and across the country, and we've learned of the relentless torment these kids endure simply because they want to be themselves,” Griffin said for the mother. “By adding gender identity and expression to the policy, you are not just protecting my child, but hundreds of others will have one more layer of protection, knowing that they matter to you.”

"We were happy to play a role in developing this policy but it would not have been possible without the leadership of elected officials such as Board Member Diane Smith who really took this issue to heart,” Griffin said.

After a year of meetings and discussions between local and state ACLU representatives, the parent, and district officials including Smith, the inclusive policy was adopted at a regular Board meeting Tuesday night.

"This was the right thing to do,” Smith said. “Our school board is student focused and makes decisions with their best interests in mind. This amendment strengthens our current policy so that we can ensure all students are protected from bullying and harassment.”

The success in protecting students in Volusia is part of the ACLU of Florida’s longstanding commitment and work through litigation and advocacy to secure and protect the rights of LGBT students to learn in a safe environment that is free of harassment, bullying and discrimination. The Volusia-Flagler chapter of the ACLU of Florida also played a key role in an agreement reached this month between a Flagler County student and the Flagler school district over anti-gay and lesbian bullying.

“The most common forms of bullying and harassment in Florida schools, and across the country, are based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical appearance,” said Shelbi Day, ACLU of Florida LGBT Project Attorney. “Although the state anti-bullying law clearly prohibits bullying and harassment of any students, it is imperative that individual school district policies make clear that bullying and harassment of LGBT students is prohibited and will not be tolerated. This is a critical step in making Florida schools truly safe for all students.”

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A pdf copy of the mother’s remarks to the Volusia School Board can be found here:

Information on the March 17th agreement in Flagler can be found here:

More information on ACLU of Florida’s programs on lesbian and gay rights can be found here:

About the ACLU of Florida
The ACLU of Florida is freedom's watchdog, working daily in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend individual rights and personal freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For additional information, visit our web site at: www.aclufl.org.

2011 Press Releases