HOPE Scholarship – Florida: Bring a New Light for Bullying and Violence Victims

Background

Physical hurt and psychological distress caused by mischief have been a serious issue since long ago. They can be caused by bullying, sexual offenses, harassment, and many more attacking physic and psychology incidents.

Nowadays, bullying has become so common, that it may not seem like a big deal anymore. It is the society in the wrong for treating and taking it lightly. Having no one to stand up and defend the victims only made it even harder for the victims. They may start losing trust in people.

Based on research stated in the journal of JAMA Psychiatry, around 20% of people who have been bullied experience some kind of mental health problems later in life, even in old age. Being bullied can lead to having social anxiety such as low self-esteem, poor performance, and afraid of meeting people. It also affects their mental health such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that can lead to a suicide attempt.

As for sexual harrassment, it is no better than bullying.  The unwanted flashback of the assault keeps appearing in the victims’ minds. They often feel nausea, shame, isolated, shock, confusion, and guilt. Sometimes, instead of encouraging and giving a helping hand, the reactions of the family or friends just make it worse. It’s already hard enough for them to get out of the lingering trauma, but they still need to deal with a negative stigma from society. Unable to forgive themselves, most of them tend to hurt themselves.

The physical hurt may heal as time goes by, but the psychological damage can last for a lifetime. It’s basically, in other words, destroying someone else’s life. The victims have so many struggles as it is hard to deal with the past and heal the scars in the first place. Even the professionals can’t help much, the victims themselves are the main actor. They need to forgive and make peace with themselves.

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Unfortunately, these horrid things are also happening in the school where children and teens get educated, moreover, the victims are still underage. Looking at the increasing number of bullying, intimidation, and sexual harassment cases reported, not to mention the others that are not filed, we can’t play blind and pretend as nothing happens anymore.

What is Hope Scholarship Florida?

The Florida Government under the Department of Education has taken an action as one of many ways to help the victim through this Hope Scholarship program. This is the Nation’s first program specifically for students who are victims of bullying or violence. This program was created by the Florida Legislature in 2018. You can see the memorandum for every school district superintendents here. The Hope Scholarship is administered by Florida Scholarship Fund Organizations (SFO), currently trusted to Step Up for Students.

Just like its name, The Hope Scholarship aims to bring new hope for the victims of bullying or violence, in particular for public school students. It offers transferring school option rather than remain in the unhealthy school environment. Since created, it has been helping 66 students by the Fall of 2018.

Every school district personnel in Florida has a responsibility to notify families of the Hope Scholarship Program. Besides providing the student with an immediate espace from incidents, the Hope Scholarship also encourages the school to fix and address any bullying and violence problem.

As it is needed, the government and sponsor for the scholarship of any states or countries should follow this example. We need to pay extra attention to this field.

Who is Eligible?

Any public school student in Florida who doesn’t receive any scholarship from Florida SFO (Scholarship Funding Organization) and was subjected to an incident of:

  • battery
  • harassment
  • hazing
  • bullying
  • threat
  • kidnapping
  • physical attack
  • sexual offenses
  • fighting
  • intimidation

The incident must have taken place at one of these following places:

  • within a K-12 (kindergarten to 12th grade) school building or school property
  • any school-related or school-sponsored program or activity
  • a bus or a bus stop.

Educational Option

  • Transfer to another public school
    The student is allowed to transfer to any public school in Florida, either outside or inside the area in which the student resides.
    You can also apply for transportation funding by contacting the eligible SFO.
    To transfer, please contact your school district office.
  • Transfer to an approved private school
    The parents must notify the school district of the children to withdraw the student from the public school and transfer them to a private school.
    To apply for a scholarship funding, please contact the eligible SFO.
    For a list of approved private schools, please check on this website.

There is a possibility that some of you may be thinking that transferring school will not solve the problem.

Well, yes, the victims should not avoid and run away from the problem, indeed. But they need hope, a supporting and encouraging environment in order to face their problem bravely, so they can get over their trauma.

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What is Covered?

If you choose a public school, the transportation reimbursement will be up to $750.

If you choose a private school, the amount will be up to:

  • $6,519      for 5th grade
  • $6,815      for 6th – 8th grade
  • $7,112      for 9th – 12th grade

The fund can be used towards these following fees, in this order until the maximum scholarship amount is reached:

1. Tuition
2. Books
3. Registration
4. Transportation made available by the school
(e.g. school bus pick-up/drop-off)
5. Uniforms
6. Testing
(e.g. standardized or entrance testing)
7. Other fees
(e.g. graduation fees, yearbook fees, field trips. Services before or after school hours such as aftercare or sports are not covered.)

How do I Apply?

1. Submit a report of the incident
The student or his/her parents must submit a report of an incident to the school principal or the student’s designee. That person will investigate the incident.

2.  Make sure to ask for the Hope Scholarship Notification Form
It takes a maximum of 15 days after the incident was reported to complete the investigation. Then, the investigator must notify the parent about the Hope Scholarship and provide the parent with a fully completed notification form. Submitting a form that is not fully completed will delay the processing of the application. The form can be seen here (the student’s FLEID, stands for Florida Education Identifier, can be known by contacting the school district office or the local public school).

3.  First-come, first-serve basis
The application is done online on this page. Submit your application as early as possible because it is processed in the order it was received. The awards are determined by the first-come-first-serve basis, with priority granted to renewing students, and depend on available funds.

Additional Information

  • Scholarship funding can be transferred to another eligible, participating private school if the student moves within the state or simply wants to attend a different eligible, participating private school.
  • The scholarship will be valid (depending on available funding and notification of renewal) until the student returns to public school or graduates from high school, whichever occurs first.
  • If choosing the private school option, checks are sent directly to the eligible private school where the student is enrolled. Schools will notify parents when checks have arrived, so they may come to endorse the student’s cheque.

Where is The Fund Coming From?

Florida is a state that has the largest tax-credit scholarship program in the US. No exception for the Hope Scholarship, the program is funded through the contribution made by anyone who purchases or registers a new certain vehicle.

Starting from October 1, the purchasers have the option to designate up to $150 of their state sales tax to fund the scholarship. If the tax is less than $150, then their state sales tax will be the amount donated. The qualified vehicles are limited to these following: a car, a truck that weighs less than 5,000 pounds, and a motor vehicle used to transport people or properties. In other words, heavy trucks, tractors, motorcycles, and others are excluded from the eligible sponsor list.

The contribution can be made through dealers, private tag agencies, and county tax collectors. They are obligated to notify the purchasers or registrants about the option for contributing to the Hope Scholarship.

For the calculation example, you can learn it here in the “Making a Contribution” section.

Contact Person

For more detailed information, please read this handbook. If you still have a doubt or question, don’t hesitate to contact them through:

Florida Department of Education
Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice
Turlington Building – Florida Department of Education
325 W. Gaines Street, Room 1044
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400
1-800-447-1636 (Toll-Free Information Hotline)
850-245-0875 (Fax)
E-mail

or

Step Up for Students
P.O. Box 54367
Jacksonville, FL 32245-4367
877-735-7837
[email protected]

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