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Sunrise Academy becomes first Florida private school to receive Equality Florida's training

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

Sunrise Academy has partnered with Equality Florida to become Florida's first private school to receive its Safe and Healthy Schools training.

Equality Florida (EQFL), the state’s leading LGBTQ rights organization, has joined forces with Step Up For Students, the state’s largest K-12 scholarship organization, to bring LGBTQ awareness training to private schools wishing to participate.

The goal is for Equality Florida to expand a current public school-based LGBTQ training program to private schools with scholarship students. Step Up has raised $1 million privately to seed the endeavor.

“This is an exciting opportunity for us,” says Equality Florida chief executive officer Nadine Smith. “Any time we can step inside any school to offer help to students, we want to be there. The bottom line is that every student should feel safe, no matter whether the school is public or private.”

Sunrise Academy was the first scholarship private school to receive Equality Florida’s training in September.

“Sunrise Academy is excited to join the partnership and be the first private school to participate in Equality Florida’s Safe School program,” says Sunrise Academy Lower School Principal Shellnisha Franklin. “We as educators must strive to create a safe space where all students feel valued and empowered to be their authentic self.”

Levi Connolly, Upper School Principal remarked that "we are all at different places in our lives and we must remember our perspective is not the same as our students. All of our student’s lives are equally valuable, and we want all our students to have an equal start."

The stakes are high. In the most recent state survey, 18 percent of Florida high school students either identified as LGB or said they are unsure, and another 1.5 percent reported they are transgender. These students attempt suicide at four times the rate of their non-LGBT classmates. The Center For Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey also highlights increased likelihood of LGB children to experience bullying and violence – resulting in higher absenteeism and poorer school performance.

In 2020, Sunrise Academy became the first school in the United States to receive Peace Mala accreditation, an organization dedicated to tackling bullying and prejudices in all walks of life.

Sunrise Academy is dedicated to supporting students from all walks of life and we are excited to partner with Equality Florida to build upon our atmosphere of inclusion and acceptance.


Lower School Principal Shellnisha Franklin:

Upper School Principal Levi Connolly:


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