Breaking News
More () »

Duval County Public Schools terminates 20-year relationship with LGBTQ group JASMYN

The school district cited an "inappropriate game" being given to students. JASMYN called it an "overreaction."

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The video attached to this story is from a previous, unrelated report.

Duval County Public Schools are ending their partnership with LGBTQ+ advocacy group Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network (JASMYN) after more than two decades.

JASMYN is a non-profit that "supports the empowerment of LGBTQIA+ young people through leadership, advocacy, resources and a safe and affirming community," according to their website.

The nonprofit has been in Jacksonville since 1994 and gained attention after being gifted $3 million by pop singer Ariana Grande in August. 

DCPS Superintendent Diana Greene said the district terminated its agreement with JASMYN because of "inappropriate" program materials.

"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 wrote in an email to school principals.

Greene said that this decision does not "impair" the district's commitment to LBGTQ+ students and faculty. 

In an email written to JASMYN, which Greene shared with First Coast News, Greene says the organization used inappropriate games during an event at its Five Points location.

She attached a link to an article written by the Florida Standard, a news website which boasts a goal of "right-sizing" the Florida media, which they say is overwhelmingly "center-left." JASMYN called the publication a "far right extremist website." 

The article describes a card game seen in a photo on JASMYN's Instagram, which showed images of different penis and scrotum types. JASMYN says the game was part of it's HIV prevention work.

The post was later deleted. 

"Schools have a lot of resources, but they're not always easy to access for students, and in particular, LGBTQ students don't always feel safe," said JASMYN CEO Cindy Watson.

For more than two decades, JASMYN has worked with Duval County Schools to bridge that gap, and the district has paid JASMYN $45,000 in grant money for the past nine years to work with its Gender and Sexualities Alliances and inclusiveness training.

"It's really unfortunate that they've severed this tie in such a way, but we really want to continue to do this work with the students."

JASMYN CEO Cindy Watson says the card game was used to reach out to young, gay adults so they can, in turn, provide them with resources like HIV testing and how to practice safe sex.

"To really try to reach a hard to reach and reluctant group of men because they've been targeted so much," said Watson.

Watson clarified the game was never used in schools or with anyone under the age of 18.

"We want to provide the kind of activities that are the right fit for different ages," said Watson.

JASMYN released a statement on their website saying, in part, "we only engage in programs or educational activities with teens that are age appropriate, and recent allegations that we conduct sex education programming using explicit card games with minors is simply not true."

A full statement provided to First Coast News from JASMYN can be read here: 

"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."


Before You Leave, Check This Out