A concerned community member reached out to Parents Defending Education about the Johnston Public School District sending out a newsletter to parents and students regarding what is called a “LGBTQ Youth Focus Group” at the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year. This concerned community member provided PDE with the flyer for the focus group included in the newsletter. The description of the focus group states “LGBTQ youth focus group to discuss concerns around mental health and substance use.” Participants are paid with a “$15 Amazon Gift Card.” The focus group was offered by the “Tri-County Community Action Agency.”
PDE submitted a public records request to the district seeking any information or other documents in the district’s possession regarding the focus group. The superintendent of the district only sent PDE the same flyer that the concerned community member provided with no additional information. The flyer that the district sent PDE appeared as if it was taken from a screenshot on someone’s phone.
The concerned community member also provided PDE with an email from the principal of Nicholas A. Ferri Middle School within the district. He stated in an email regarding the newsletter and flyer:
This is our newsletter and it was sent to all students and parents. Tricounty Community action is a community resource. These types of focus groups are a part of the community partnership and Tri county Community action agency provides them for all types of topic areas. The reason we send the newsletter to both parents and students so that all are aware. Public school is obligated to provide a safe and supportive environment for all members of our community. The superintendent is aware and I have included him in this email.
The Tri-County Community Action Agency states online that it “was established under President Johnson’s ‘War on Poverty’ and the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.” The organization’s vision statement explains that “we are unified, with resident voice and a commitment to social and racial justice.”