Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Vitti Vows to Investigate LGBT Mistreatment Claims; He Says Teachers, Staff Will Receive Training on Concerns

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Vitti Vows to Investigate LGBT Mistreatment Claims; He Says Teachers, Staff Will Receive Training on Concerns

Article excerpt

Byline: Denise Smith Amos

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said Monday he is concerned about and will investigate claims made by a transgender student about mistreatment at Paxon School for Advanced Studies.

He also vowed to step up training for school and district staff on how to recognize and avoid discrimination, particularly as it pertains to students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

"I'm not assuming guilt here, but the accusations are concerning," he said. "They require investigating. If it's found to be accurate, then it's a violation of our policies."

Ryan Stalvey, 16, recently completed sophomore year at the magnet high school and plans to return in the fall. He said last week that most Paxon students, teachers and administrators have been supportive of him, referring to him by his chosen name and by male pronouns and treating him like a male student.

There have been exceptions, however. Ryan said the following occurred:

An ROTC instructor told him to dress for exercises in a female uniform, but Ryan has refused. The instructor would not give him a male uniform, so Ryan wore his own clothes.

A few educators have told Ryan that it was a privilege to be referred to as male, a privilege that could be revoked.

One teacher allowed a student in class to repeatedly refer to Ryan by his legal name and to use female pronouns when referring to him.

During Ryan's freshman year a group of seniors dumped lemonade on him and used a slur against lesbians. Other students bullied him.

"No student should experience what this student is saying," Vitti said Monday. "This deserves an investigation."

Vitti said he hopes Ryan will work with district officials as they investigate. "There will be disciplinary actions if these things are validated," he said.

Vitti said he wants to instill a culture where students feel free to report these kinds of troubles, and where adults are aware of students' rights. …

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