The state of Florida has seemingly made a progressive change in hindering the culture of bullying in public schools, by providing victims of bullying a chance to transfer to private schools on a scholarship.
While the step seems positive on paper, it has problems — many, many problems.
When Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) turned the bill into a law, in March; he touted it as an example of the government wanting to do something good for its citizens.
“Every child in Florida should have the opportunity to get a great education at the school of their choice so they can achieve their dreams,” he said.
He forgot to mention one thing though: the chance would be much slimmer if you belong to the LGBTQ community.
Despite being one of the most prominent victims of bullying in schools, many private schools participating in the new program do not welcome LGBTQ students, so much so they label being gay an “abomination.”
The Florida Hope Scholarship Program is a voucher program; one of the same programs where Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has poured taxpayer money into, terming it as presenting a choice to parents. She has been criticized for weakening the public school sector by taking away funds and has often seemed rather uneducated about what her funding means to education in America as a whole.
However, giving an option to a bullying victim to start over did not seem like such a bad idea until HuffPost, in an exclusive report, revealed the discrimination and outright ban on gay students, both in admission and on the curricula used in at least 10 percent of the private schools, that have registered with the program so far.
What it basically says is: We want to help bullying victims, unless they are gay.
HuffPost studied handbooks and mission statement from these schools, many of which outright refused to enroll students who identified as gay.
And the curricula used in 30 percent of the 70 registered schools (yet) are no better.
From bigoted views on the LGBTQ community to misinformation about slavery in America, the schools promote hateful ideals about non-Christians and women.
Twenty one schools in the program use curricula from ultra-conservative companies like Abeka, Bob Jones University Press and Accelerated Christian Education.
An Abeka eighth-grade textbook, reviewed by Huff Post, stated ideas like “evolution,” “progressive education” and “modern psychology” had a “devastating effect upon American life” and that “homosexuality” is a “disgraceful sin” and environmentalist think of “mankind as the enemy of nature.”
An 11th-grade textbook from Accelerated Christian Education ignorantly described slavery as “black immigration” and suggested God created the Civil War as punishment for “religious apostasy and cultism.”
The textbook also makes disparaging comments about women with short hair and states President Barack Obama “promoted an agenda that encouraged lifestyles condemned by God’s Word.”
Professors, who reviewed the course, said these books “distort history.”
“And given the biblical command not to bear false witness, I would question whether a distorted history is consistent with Christian teaching,” said David Brockman, a nonresident scholar at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy after the review of Bob Jones and ACE textbooks in December 2017, during a previous HuffPost investigation.
These voucher programs, like the Hope Scholarship program, are funded by taxpayers’ money.
The Hope Scholarship program, specifically, will be paid by residents when they decide to buy a new car, where they can then choose to earmark up to $100 to the scholarship.
Critics of the programs have decried the idea of the usage of public money which will ultimately weaken the public school sector. There is also a huge problem of shuffling victims from school to school rather than working on getting rid of the actual cause of bullying in public schools — which would serve as a better long term plan.
Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association, said the money would be better used in training teachers at public schools so they would be better equipped to deal with issues of bullying.
“We’re going to leave the bully in place and this bully is going to pick another student,” McCall told Huff Post.
Supporters of the voucher programs naturally do not agree.
“The reality is, there are all types of private schools in the state,” Republican State Rep. Byron Donalds said. “If the parent of a child doesn’t feel comfortable going to a school of choice, well, they don’t have to go to a school of choice. You can’t mandate what a school is going to teach if you want them to be free to have the type of culture they want in their private school.”
Yet, public school activists have denounced the move, claiming such programs not only weaken the public school sector, they also provide substantial financial support to schools promoting religious extremism.
And the Hope Scholarship program is much more dangerous because not only does it financially gain from a victims’ pain, it also fails to acknowledge a large chunk of probably most bullied students in the state.
“Choice is a false and cruel promise for far too many children,” Eliza Byard, president of GLSEN, a nonprofit that supports LGBTQ students.
Thumbnail/ Banner Credits: FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images