Name calling, pulling ponytails on the playground or pushing over the girl you secretly liked were all forms of innocent mockery we were all subjected too as kids growing up. We brushed it off, stiffened our upper lip and moved on. But these days, the old saying of, “sticks and stones…” doesn’t really work with this generation. This generation is subjected to bullying in forms we could have never even dreamed of back in the 80’s.
One group in Florida is actively working to prevent bullying in the state by creating a scholarship program to help students attend a private school of their choice.
The Florida Citizens Alliance is volunteer, non-profit group which champions K-12 education reform in Florida. In 2017, FLCA successfully petitioned the FL legislator to create the “Hope Scholarship Fund.”
Eye on Jacksonville, spoke with the founder and Managing Director of Florida Citizen Alliance, Mr. Keith Flaugh, about the Hope Scholarship Fund.
According to Flaugh, Florida is putting the power back in the hands of the parents, by helping victims of bullying move to a private school. One simple form could provide your student an $8,000 scholarship to attend a private school of their choice. The parents, nor the school, has to prove the bullying occurred.
Flaugh wants parents to understand how expansive the Hope Scholarship really is for students and what it can do for them.
Flaugh explains, the statute helps students by legally changing the definition of bullying to include anyone on school property.
“It could be a “a principal, a teacher, a lunchroom manager, a parent, a bus driver, legally anyone could be a bully.”
The statute also added three new terms to the definition of bullying.
Threats, intimidation and harassment.
“If you are a parent and you believe your child is being threatened or intimidated by anything on school property, or school sponsored event, all you have to do is file an Incident Report… Go to the state website, and print out a one-page form, check the box or threatening or intimidation. Take it to the principal. The principal is required to sign it whether they agree with you or not. They cannot tell you, you do not qualify. Simply by filing the incident report, you qualify. And when they sign that, you then become eligible for up to an $8000 scholarship to send your child to a private school of your choice.”
Once an incident report has been filed, the school is duty-bound to provide the scholarship.
Flaugh calls it your, “get out of jail free card with an up to $8000 a year payout.”
The scholarship also protects students from being exposed to sexually explicit material in the classroom, including LGBTQ material, gender ideology, social emotional learning, BLM or CRT. Flaugh says, “you do not have to prove it is age inappropriate. If you believe it is, it is. And that qualifies.”
When Eye on Jacksonville asked Flaugh why parents are not aware of the program, he puts the blame back on the school system. School administrators and principals are poorly trained on the law, and most parents are told their child doesn’t qualify for the program. Which Flaugh says is, “an out-right lie.” He believes the lack of publicity about the scholarship is due to funding for the school. Schools do not want federal funds withheld, so Flaugh believes bullying numbers are vastly under reported.
This past year 500 families across Florida have taken advantage of the Hope Scholarship.
But Flaugh believes there is more work to do and more families to reach.
He says “it is still a far underutilized opportunity and it’s just because parents don’t understand. They have been beat down so often by the bureaucracy. That when a school principal says they do not qualify, they accept that without question, and they obviously shouldn’t.”
The Florida Citizens Alliance has teams in more than 20 counties working around the state.
FLCA has distributed more than forty thousand door knockers in English and Spanish, explaining the program. There is also a hotline people can call for information explaining how to work through the bureaucracy.
If you would like more information on the Hope Scholarship you can visit their website.
Attached below are links to the statute and the FLCA website.