Guest Blogger

Broward School Board Race Priority for the LGBT Community

Filed By Guest Blogger | July 20, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Broward School Board, Cypress Bay High School, GSA, Laurie Rich Levinson, Phyllis Hope, Ryan Terrel

Editor's Note: Ryan Terrell is a Senior at Cypress Bay High School where he serves as the President of the Cypress Bay Gay/Straight Alliance. He is also the incoming President of the Broward County GSA Advisory Council.

n763135580_6289938_1398107.jpgWhile still more than 12 months away, candidates for local and state offices are already gearing up for potentially grueling contests. Many party insiders have remained focused on the state level since a rare set of circumstances have set off a massive game of musical chairs, resulting in five out of six statewide offices being left with no incumbent and more than 30 legislative seats being vacated.

However, with the likelihood of the Democratic Party taking back either chamber of the Florida State legislature dismal, many local politicos and insiders have been urging party leaders to look to local races and assist in raising funds during this sour economy.

One such race is a low key Broward County School Board Race in the western areas of the county. District 6, which includes all of the Cities of Weston and Sunrise, and parts of Davie, Cooper City, Lauderhill, and Lauderdale Lakes, is currently represented by School Board member Phyllis Hope, who is running for re-election.

While Ms. Hope did receive substantial backing from the LGBT community during her first campaign in 2006, when she defeated the incumbent School Board Member Marty Rubinstein, she has a lukewarm record of support for the gay community during her tenure. A look at a few of the significant votes on gay rights shows that she did not vote on a resolution protecting GLSEN's Day of Silence even though she was present during the presentation, was silent when the school board took a stand against Amendment 2, and has repeatedly refused to attend LGBT events in her districts and meet with student run Gay-Straight Alliance groups in her district who have been encountering rising rates of violence and harassment by fellow students, teachers and staff in the past three years.

In fact, according to a CBS-4 news report conducted on Cypress Bay High School (the largest school in her district) there were 1702 cases of violence reported last year, 2 more cases than Dillard High School, where a gay-related shooting took place last year and prompted the school board to call for greater action to prevent bullying and violence in Broward schools. When the Student Government and the Cypress Bay Gay-Straight Alliance conducted a private study after this report, we found that approximately 35 percent of all cases of violence that occurred in our school involved bullying or harassment of a person's sexual orientation.

In steps her opponent, Laurie Rich Levinson, a City of Weston parent activist and Central-Area Advisory Chairwoman. She has spoken with the Presidents of all three Gay-Straight Alliances in the district including: Cypress Bay High School, Western High School, and Piper High School and has received the endorsement of the Broward County GSA Advisory Council, an independent student-run entity that consists of the Presidents of every GSA in Broward County. She has worked behind the scenes with the Council to reduce incidents of violence in her district and the county as well. She is a proactive leader in the protection of all Broward County students.

An interesting side note, Laurie Rich Levinson is the daughter of State Senator Nan Rich (D-Weston), a powerful advocate on behalf of children's rights and gay rights in her own right. Senator Rich has repeatedly sponsored a bill in the senate that would remove the ban on gay adoption in the state of Florida. Sen. Rich is also the incoming Democratic Leader of the State Senate (2010-2012) and holds considerable power over the status of many bills that could affect the LGBT community.

This race will surely be one of extreme importance to the younger members of the LGBT community and will certainly be one to follow in the upcoming months.

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LGBT friend | July 21, 2009 10:28 PM

There are several innacurate statements in this article.

First, with regard to the vote on the Day of Silence. It was a unanimous vote by the Board, at which time Mrs. Hope praised Board Member Jennifer Gottlieb for her “bravery” in bringing the matter to the attention of the Board.

Second, when the Board took a stand against Amendment 2, Mrs. Hope not only joined the board in condemning the dangerous impact that Amendment 2 would have on all Floridians, she even offered personal testimony. As a formerly unmarried woman, Mrs. Hope and her spouse had been registered domestic partners here in Broward County in order to utilize the benefits she receives.

Finally, Mrs. Hope has not refused to attend any events and as recently as last month when getting her re-election campaign under way, a meeting with GLBT leaders was among the top priorities of the campaign.

I find it extremely unfortunate that Ryan Terrell has chosen to completely misstate Mrs. Hope’s record and appreciate the opportunity to clarify.

Thanks for sharing your views and information! I hope the outreach continues on both sides to the people like the GSAs & students who are affected by the decisions made by the school board.

Thanks for commenting and hope you continue reading all the different view and posts on Bilerico Florida!

Full Disclosure | July 22, 2009 3:17 PM

Did Bilerico mention that Ryan, is working on Ms. Hope's opponents campaign?

Interesting that someone who wants "full disclosure" post anonymously on the site.

If you'd like to take issue with Ryan's points about the issues, like the commenter above, feel free. I would ask, however, that insinuations about people's character and intentions be left out. Civil discourse is an important part of the Bilerico Project.

Ryan may very well be working for or volunteering for a candidate he believes in (for the reasons he outlined). Maybe you should he finding out why he feels the way he does rather than subtly attacking him.

Ryan Terrell | July 22, 2009 4:01 PM

I'd like to take this opportunity to quickly clear up a few misconceptions and (subtle)attacks made against me.

To blogger LGBT Friend:

A quick look at the meeting minutes on April 21, 2009, when the Day of Silence vote took place, will show that Ms. Hope was indeed absent for the actual vote and then came back and made ambigious comments about bullying needing to stop. My issue with her actions was that she had a full 30 minutes before my presentation, (I co-authored the resolution and helped present it, so I can lay claim to it being "mine"), in which she could conduct any legitimate business before the vote. The record shows the vote was 8-0, so no she did not vote on it.

Amendment 2 was a bit of a stranger story. The record shows Mrs. Gottlieb, Bartleman, Sobel, Gallagher, and Dr. Parks making strong arguments against it, while grouping the statements of Mr. Williams, Mrs. Kraft, and Mrs. Hope together suggesting it would provide unneccesary government intrusion. I would question the support of a supposed "friend" of the community that could only come up with that reason to oppose the measure.

In regards to her refusal to attend events, I can tell you personally that she has repeatedly refused to meet with my Gay-Straight Alliance as well as the GSA at Western High School. When I invited her to the county conference we were planning her secretary flat out said no. What kind of a school board member would repeatedly refuse to meet with student leaders who are the front-lines in the fight against bullying.

Yes, I do support her opponent Laurie, but only after repeated slights and disregards that Phyllis Hope and her staff have shown me and my collegues. I was going to remain neutral, but she has given me reason to believe that she is damaging our cause and I refuse to sit by and watch that happen.

Marc Paige | August 8, 2009 1:59 AM

Hi Ryan:

I am an HIV educator, and would love the opportunity to speak with your group at Cypress Bay this coming school year about HIV prevention, and give the students an opportunity to ask questions of what it has been like living with HIV/AIDS for over 25 years.

Please feel free to get in touch with me.

Marc Paige
Ft. Lauderdale
cell: 401-837-6818