TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — A video surfaced on social media this week of a Florida School Counseling Association (FSCA) webinar in which school staff are advised to encourage students to lie to their parents. Conservative activist Lisa Logan tweeted two video segments of the 2016 webinar on Monday.
The webinar, “Best Practices in Counseling our LGBTQ Students,” was on the FSCA’s YouTube channel until Wednesday afternoon. The video, which had garnered over 5,000 views, was removed shortly after The Florida Standard contacted FSCA requesting comment.
ENCOURAGING STUDENTS TO LIE
The webinar host is Veritza Kostovski, who served as a school counselor in Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) for six years. Kostovski is now a program director for The Education Fund, a non-profit that works with M-DCPS.
As part of the training, Kostovski presents a hypothetical scenario in which two female students are caught kissing in the hallway.
“If the child says, ‘What am I going to say to my mom?’ It’s okay for you to say to the child, ‘Don’t tell them it was a girl. Tell them it was a boy. Make it up!’” Kostovski said. “It’s okay for the child to lie. It’s okay for the child to lie to their parents if that means it’s going to keep them safe.”
She also instructed staff to maintain gender neutrality when speaking to parents and cite the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as a defense for not disclosing the gender of the other student.
NEVER OUT A STUDENT TO THEIR PARENTS
Kostovski underscored the importance of withholding a student’s LGBTQ status from his/her parents by presenting a worst case scenario.
“Never out a student to their parents. If a child is saying, ‘Please don’t tell my parents,’ then don’t. Because you don’t know what that child is going home to,” she said. “Always remember: ‘If I’m going to out this child to their parents, do I have an extra bedroom at home?’ Because they might get kicked out of their house.”
The ideological viewpoints of the school administrators should also be taken into consideration, according to Kostovski.
“If you know your administration is not accepting, do you have to call home? Do you have to take them to the office,” she said. “Always remember, these two children might end up homeless, might end up being abused at home because of what they did.”
BEST PRACTICES FOR TRANSGENDER STUDENTS
The video also encourages staff to ask transgender students what pronouns they prefer and Kostovski states that “students should be allowed to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.”
“Never use words like lifestyle or preference,” she added, dismissing the idea that students have any choice in their LGBTQ status.
To help conceptualize FSCA’s best practices Kostovski employed a spinoff of a gingerbread man cookie, shown on the slide as a “gender-bread man.”
“We’re all in the spectrum of the gender-bread man, or, the gender-bread person,” she said. “That’s definitely something to consider when speaking to students.”
Neither Kostovski nor FSCA responded to a request for comment. Someone with access to the FSCA YouTube channel deleted the video immediately following the inquiry.
M-DCPS spokesperson Carlos Sarmiento said the communications team would review but did not provide a comment.
The Education Fund declined to answer The Florida Standard’s questions about whether or not they agreed with Kostovski’s comments or thought it was appropriate for school staff to encourage students to lie to parents, but provided the following statement: “The Education Fund’s mission is to raise funds to enhance education, based on state standards, for all students in Miami-Dade public schools. All our work is in compliance with state education standards and state laws.”