LGBTQ Advocates decry DOE pulling anti-bullying portal

CARDIFF, WALES - AUGUST 24: A LGBT rainbow flag during Pride Cymru 2019 on August 24, 2019 in Cardiff, Wales. Pride Cymru aims to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender and promote LGBT+ equality and diversity within Wales. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images) (Matthew Horwood, 2019 Matthew Horwood)

TALLAHASSEE – LGBTQ groups are blasting the Florida Department of Education for taking down the anti-bullying portal from its website, characterizing the move as “a staggering escalation of its anti-LGBTQ agenda.”

The portal included resources for LGBTQ students.

The removal of the portal comes after a conservative-leaning news source contacted the department about links to LGBTQ advocacy groups on the page.

Jon Harris Maurer with Equality Florida said the department’s decision to pull the page down won’t only impact LGBTQ students.

“These are important resources that are about bullying prevention and ultimately suicide prevention that serve the interest of all students,” said Maurer.

At least one of the sites linked on the portal included recommendations school staff not reveal a student’s transgender status to parents without the student’s permission.

“No one deserves to be bullied, regardless of orientation, gender, race, or any other characteristic,” said DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw in an emailed statement. “Parents should play the most important role in their kids’ education and upbringing; they should not be marginalized by ideological directives from activist groups.”

LGBTQ groups argued against the ‘Parents Bill of Rights’ in the last legislative session because they feared it would force schools to out LGBTQ youth to their parents.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said the latest move by DOE suggests those concerns were merited.

“This is again another attempt of this Governor to create a culture war in our state and try to pin communities against each other,” said Fried.

And Maurer argued that outting (the act of telling a parent their child’s sexual orientation without consent) students to their parents can put them at risk.

“We wish that every LGBTQ young person came from a safe and supportive household. Unfortunately we know that’s not the case for our LGBTQ youth,” said Maurer.

“Clearly, we support all students – no student deserves to be bullied in school for any reason – the health and safety of Florida’s 2.9 million students is our utmost priority. To suggest otherwise is simply false,” said DOE Director of Communications Jared Ochs in an emailed statement.

In the statement DOE confirmed it took the page down after receiving the complaint and said it’s currently reviewing the materials on the page for appropriateness.

“Unfortunately, the links we reviewed were to U.S. DOE webpages that had previously provided helpful guidance and information, but now are being used as platforms for advocacy,” said Ochs.

Commissioner Fried told us she is looking for ways to make the LGBTQ resources available through her department to ensure students, parents and teachers still have access to the materials.