Fla. School Board Blocks Grant Over Gay Discrimination

Courtney Williams's picture
Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Pinellas County School Board decided Tuesday to cut ties with an educational program affiliated with the Boy Scouts.

The school board made the decision to reject funding for “Learning for Life,” citing discrimination against gay youth by the organization.

"This board has a chance to send a strong message to the Boy Scouts," said Board Member Linda Lerner during the meeting.

Lerner has asked the board to split from the program for the past 10 years.

"I was pleasantly surprised, and I believe that it is so good for our district for our educators, students, and citizens, gay and straight," said Lerner.

"Learning for Life" is a character education program in schools. It teaches students values like respect, responsibility, honesty and fairness.

A $54,000 grant would have supported the program at a handful of Pinellas Schools, including Skyview Elementary, Mildred Helm Elementary, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor and Tyrone Middle Schools.

The plan now is to expand the district's "Commitment to Character" program to replace "Learning for Life.” Other groups nationally have cut ties, too.

Mildred Helm Principal Sandy Cowley said character building early on is critical.

"I think character is part of establishing who you are in life, what your morals are, how you treat other people," Cowley said.

The Boy Scouts have said that homosexuality is inconsistent with its values. The Supreme Court ruled it is the private organization's right.