Hundreds of school district leaders from 39 Florida school districts and Florida Virtual Schools gathered for two days of intensive LGBTQ-inclusive trainings in St. Petersburg at the sixth annual “All Together Now Conference.” Attendees represent 90% of Florida’s public school population. This is the fourth year St. Petersburg has hosted the conference and Mayor Rick Kriseman welcomed attendees.
The conference provided trainings for the 225 attendees to gain expertise on nationally recognized best practices for creating welcoming and supportive learning environments for LGBTQ+ students, a population known to face elevated risk factors for a number of negative educational consequences.
“The All Together Now conference provides a space for school district leaders across the state to come together to gain expertise on how to meet the needs of LGBTQ students and create safe and welcoming environments in schools. This is life-saving work,” said Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida. “LGBTQ students face enormous additional risk for being bullied, skipping school, dropping out, becoming homeless, and suicide.”
Between 15% and 21% of Florida students identify as LGB or are unsure if they are LGB. These students are at dramatically increased risk for being bullied, harassed, assaulted, skipping school, dropping out, becoming homeless, using drugs, or being victims of homicide. These risks are even higher for transgender youth, who account for approximately 3.6% of Florida’s students. Most alarming of all, research shows that LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely than heterosexual students to seriously consider suicide and to make the attempt.
The All Together Now Conference is a central event of Equality Florida Institute’s Safe and Healthy Schools Program. The program also provides professional development trainings for school district administrators, faculty, and support staff; robust support for PTAs (Parent Teacher Associations) and GSAs; and coalition building among local LGBTQ+ youth supporting nonprofit agencies and their respective school districts.