Thirty-one School Districts Gather for 5th LGBTQ Student Best Practices Summit

Posted on Feb 28, 2019

St. Petersburg – This week, on February 25-26, 175 school district leaders from 31 Florida school districts, as well as representation from the North East Florida Education Consortium and Florida Virtual Schools, gathered in St. Petersburg for the sixth annual All Together Now Conference. Attendees represent over 80% of Florida’s public school population. This conference provides two days of intensive trainings for attendees to gain expertise on nationally recognized best practices for creating welcoming and supportive learning environments for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ+) students, a population known to face elevated risk factors for a number of negative educational consequences. (Full list of participating districts below)

This was the second year St. Petersburg has hosted the conference. Mayor Rick Kriseman welcomed attendees and Pinellas Schools, Dr. Michael Grego, joined superintendents Jeff Eakins from Hillsborough, Dr. Todd Bowden from Sarasota, and Robert Runcie from Broward on the opening superintendents roundtable panel. The conference also included school board members, directors of student services, mental health professionals, school board attorneys and general counsel, state PTA leaders and leaders from community agencies that work with LGBTQ+ young people. The conference is a joint project of Orange County Public Schools, Miami Dade County Public Schools, Broward County Public Schools, Palm Beach County Public Schools, Pasco County Public Schools, Osceola County Public Schools, Equality Florida Institute, Safe Schools South Florida and Metro and is funded in part by the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg whose President and CEO, Randall H. Russell, was also a panelist.

Training sessions included: building capacity and structure within school districts to serve the unique needs of LGBTQ+ youth; supporting Gay Straight Alliances (GSA’s) which are clubs for LGBTQ+ students and allies; creating LGBTQ+ policy and procedure manuals; training on gender and the special needs of transgender youth; a panel of school district attorneys from small, medium, and large districts discussing opportunities and requirements for LGBTQ+ inclusivity.

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 (Gay Straight Alliances, which are LGBTQ+ student support clubs); and coalition building among local LGBTQ+-youth supporting nonprofit agencies and their respective school districts.

In Pinellas County, the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg has funded a deep, two-year partnership between Equality Florida Institute and Pinellas County Public Schools to expand best practices for LGBTQ+ students throughout the district. Pinellas has long been a leader in supporting LGBTQ+ students. Pinellas was one of the first school districts in Florida to protect LGBTQ+ students in its bullying and harassment policies, and more than a decade ago became the first district in Florida to ensure that there was a GSA in every high school.

“Education is a fundamental building block of a healthy life. We are pleased to support Pinellas County Schools’ continued leadership in creating a safe and effective learning environment for all students, particularly those who face disproportionate challenges due to their gender expression,” said Randall H. Russell, President and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg.

Through the Safe and Healthy Schools Program, Equality Florida Institute and Pinellas County School District are working together to provide professional development to key school district staff including principals, assistant principals, counselors, social workers, psychologists, and nurses; provide trainings and other forms of support for PTAs and GSAs; and deepen partnerships with agencies that provide services to LGBTQ+ youth.

According to De Palazzo, Safe and Healthy Schools Program Director for Equality Florida Institute, supportive services specifically targeted for LGBTQ+ youth are essential to ensuring their safety and wellbeing. Between 15% and 19% of Florida students identify as LGBT. 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.

Palazzo states, “ In creating this program, we collaborated with more than two dozen top school districts in the country that prioritize LGBTQ+ student support, including L.A. Unified School District, New York City Schools, D.C. Public Schools and many others. When LGBTQ+ kids are struggling just to find a safe space to exist at school, they can’t focus on learning. Too many LGBTQ+ students drop out because they feel threatened or unsafe at school. The All Together Now Conference is especially valuable because it gives teachers and administrators the tools to create and maintain inclusive, welcoming learning environments for LGBTQ+ students. The programs our school district partners throughout Florida are working to implement are proven to be the best practices for supporting LGBTQ+ youth.”

List of School District Participants in the All Together Now Conference:

  • Alachua County Public Schools
  • Bradford County School District
  • Brevard Public Schools
  • Broward County Public Schools
  • Charlotte County Public Schools
  • Citrus County School District
  • Collier County Public Schools
  • Duval County Public Schools
  • Escambia County School District
  • Hernando County School District
  • Hillsborough County Public Schools
  • Lake County Schools
  • Lee County Schools
  • Leon County Schools
  • School District of Manatee County
  • Marion County Public Schools
  • Martin County School District
  • Miami Dade County Public Schools
  • Monroe County School District
  • Okeechobee County School District
  • Orange County Public Schools
  • School District of Osceola County
  • School District of Palm Beach County
  • Pasco County Public Schools
  • Pinellas County Schools
  • Polk County Public Schools
  • Putnam County School District
  • Sarasota County Schools
  • Seminole County Public Schools
  • St. John’s County School District
  • St. Lucie Public Schools
  • Florida Virtual School
  • North East Florida Education Consortium

About the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg

The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg is a private foundation formed in 2013 following the sale of the nonprofit Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. It is the steward of community assets dedicated to supporting health equity in Pinellas County. The Foundation inspires and empowers people, ideas, information exchange, organizations and relationships to end differences in health due to social or structural disadvantages and improve population health.

About Equality Florida’s Safe and Healthy Schools Initiative

Equality Florida Institute is the largest organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. Equality Florida Institute’s Safe and Healthy Schools Program aims to create a culture of inclusion and support while countering the bullying, harassment, social isolation, and bigotry that dramatically increase risk factors for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning) students. Through this program, we support school districts in implementing nationally recognized best practices for meeting the needs of LGBTQ students.

De Palazzo is the Statewide Program Director for Equality Florida’s Safe and Healthy Schools Program. Prior to accepting this position, De served for over 25 years as a classroom teacher, Broward School District LGBTQ+ Coordinator, national LGBTQ+ consultant and anti-bias trainer. De helped build exemplary programs and practices in Broward Schools that are considered a national model for school districts looking for guidance. In addition to her work within the school district, she also has two decades of experience working with LGBTQ+ youth agencies and is one of the top national experts on transgender student policy. De has served as a member of the GLSEN National Board of Directors, and founded GLSEN Fort Lauderdale. She has been a nationally certified anti-bias trainer for GLSEN and the Anti-Defamation League, as well as the Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools K-5 Project, a comprehensive approach to improving school climate in elementary school environments. De co-initiated “Courageous Conversations about Race,” a race and equity-based initiative in Broward County Public Schools. De holds dual masters degrees in education and conflict resolution. She is respected for her ability to connect easily with school officials and teachers and to create spaces that allow for open, safe dialogue among participants.

U.S. Census is Hiring Locally: Earn Extra Money While Helping Our County Get a Fair and Honest Count

Equitable Services and Accurate Legislative Representation Depend Upon a Full Count of All U.S. Residents

Posted on Oct 30, 2018

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Posted on Jul 19, 2018

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Posted on Jul 17, 2018

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Foundation Announces New Trustees and Investment Committee Members

Posted on Apr 13, 2018

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Foundation Announces Joni James as Senior Impact Director

Posted on Dec 07, 2017

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Tampa Bay Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund Activated

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Posted on Sep 14, 2017

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Posted on May 30, 2017

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Inaugural 2016 Funded Partners Announced

Posted on Jun 24, 2016

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View Media Release

Inaugural Grant Partners to be Announced

Posted on May 01, 2016

The Foundation will announce our 2016 Inaugural Grant Partners on June 23, 2016! This will be the conclusion of our first grantmaking cycle. Please continue to check our website and your email inbox for updates.

LOI Engagement Consultations

Posted on May 01, 2016

Every idea proposed by our diligent, tireless Tampa Bay social service community has great value to us at the Foundation! We want to confer with those grant applicants who were declined for funding in our first grantmaking cycle to discuss your purpose and approach further, to hear more from you, and to discuss more intensely our goals and mission in the Foundation’s service area. Please contact June Kirch at to reserve a time slot for an LOI Engagement Consultation (April 13 – June 30, 2016).

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Posted on Feb 11, 2016

Our Foundation is focused on social factors that have a profound impact on health outcomes. We are excited to announce that we have published a series of Community Highlights, which describe how these social determinants play a role in the health and well-being of our community members. The series includes local statistics that provide a brief snapshot as to how St. Petersburg is faring in these different areas. We encourage you to use the Community Highlights as a local resource. Your input is very valuable to us. Please feel free to email us with your feedback on the series.

Important Foundation Deadlines Are Fast-Approaching

Posted on Jan 05, 2016

As many of you know, we recently released our inaugural Request for Proposals (RFP). We are excited to explore the collaborative and creative solutions that our community has for improving the health and well-being of St. Petersburg residents. Applicants may submit questions that they have regarding the Letters of Interest (LOI) and (or) Fluxx, our online grants portal, to or by calling 727-865-4650.

We then update the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section of our site to ensure that everyone has the same access to the responses. Deadline for questions: Friday, January 8, 2016 by 5:00 EST. The deadline for submitting the Letters of Interest (LOI) is NO LATER THAN Friday, January 15, 2016 by 5:00 p.m. EST. Please make sure to read and answer each question carefully.