Students, teachers, and parents are facing new challenges in the new school year.

Last semester was dominated by “Don’t Say Gay’s” passionate debate and passage. This semester it becomes a reality and a burden on LGBT students and their allies. Despite only purported to affect discussing sexuality in lower grades, many school systems are either being overly cautious or overzealous toadies, banning books, Pride flags, rainbow icons, and other LGBT-friendly material across all grades and schools. One county pulled books and shipped them to the Pride Center in Fort Lauderdale. In another, some books come with “warning labels.”

The law was officially called Parental Rights In Education, but what are the rights of pro-LGBT parents, students, and teachers? To help answer that question and sort out scenarios, SunServe is holding a different kind of Back To School event. Their clinical director Dr. Susan Gritz, Senior Youth Therapist Rían Merrick, Associate Director of Youth and Family Division Mario DePedro will discuss the issues. The organization is teaming up with ACLU of Florida’s Daniel Tilley, Rev. Skip Jennings from Center for Spiritual Living, and Safe School South Florida’s Elizabeth Morales. SunServe’s Executive Director, Tony Lima, will moderate the discussion.

“Our LGBTQ Youth are in constant attack here in the State Of Florida,” Lima said. “It’s our responsibility at SunServe to not only equip our youth, but our parents to effectively navigate these very difficult times from a mental health perspective.”

The law is being challenged in court, but for the start of the school year, it’s a facto of life in Florida schools. One goal of the event is to help parents and students know what to expect in an era of enforcing “Don’t Say Gay.” They will also discuss the harmful effects the law could inflict on LGBT youth.

“We hope that both youth and parents leave our event feeling stronger and knowing that SunServe and our Youth and Family division are here to support them in the absence of protections in schools,” Lima said.

There will also be refreshments and a backpack giveaway, the things that parents and students are used to focusing on this time of year.

The event is Wednesday, August 24, at 6:30 p.m. at Center for Spiritual Living, located at 4849 N. Dixie Hwy. in Fort Lauderdale. For more information, visit SunServe.org.


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