The Diversity Committee didnt need to vote on the manual, and Broward has implemented the new training with little employee resistance, Jusevic said. In fact, the employees welcomed the new manual more than her committee did, she said.
Local gay activist Michael Rajner served on the Diversity Committee for four years, leaving in 2011. He describes the experience as frustrating, and says some committee members viewed diversity as purely a black-and-white issue.
A diversity committee should be a colorful rainbow, Rajner said. It just doesnt understand that.
Rajner was on the committee during a high-profile case in 2011 in which the district investigated whether the principal at Pompano Beachs Blanche Ely High School had threatened two girls with suspension for holding hands, while outing one of the girls as a lesbian to her parents. Rajner was infuriated by the allegations, but he said one Diversity Committee member reacted at the time with an unsympathetic homophobic comment.
The comment was just reinforcing the homophobia that we feel is among some of our older generations, especially in the black community, Rajner said.
The districts investigation eventually exonerated the principal.
Years earlier, in 2005, the relationship between the gay community and Browards Diversity Committee hit its low point over a childrens video, We Are Family. The video, produced by the Anti-Defamation League and featuring cartoon character SpongeBob Squarepants, had been screened at Wilton Manors Elementary even though it wasnt part of the districts approved curriculum. When the Diversity Committee weighed in on the matter, it rejected the video as a teaching tool, but it was how that rejection took place that caused an uproar.
Then-committee member Roland Foulkes complained that the video had the backing of homosexual advocacy groups, and he then raised concerns about unorthodox families such as the David Koresh and Charles Manson cults. Another committee member conservative radio host Steve Kane called gay activists devious, devious people.
The fallout led School Board members to consider suspending the Diversity Committee altogether, though they ultimately decided not to. Kane, however, quickly resigned.
The new Human Relations Committee, if ultimately approved, would be tasked with such sensitive topics. And the makeup of the new panel might be noticeably younger. Levinson said the committees planned structure is still being hashed out, but a key component will be the inclusion of some Broward County students as members.
We have human relations councils in our schools, Levinson said. Its very valuable to include students.