JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) is defending its decision to remove a page from its website that provided links to anti-bullying resources, including those specifically geared toward LGBTQ youth.
According to FDOE spokesperson Jared Ochs, the department had received a complaint that some of the external website links on the page were “inappropriate.”
“We take allegations such as that very seriously,” Ochs said in an emailed response to News4JAX. “Therefore, in an abundance of caution, we took the page down to review for appropriateness. Information regarding bullying still exists in several parts of our website.”
Ochs said the external links that were reviewed by FDOE led to U.S. Department of Education webpages, which the spokesperson said are now used as “platforms for advocacy.”
“We simply cannot vouch for the content of all of these external sources as we make sure resources align to standards and best practices,” Ochs said. “As a result, of the content found on the U.S. DOE website, we are now reviewing all links to the federal government on our website to make sure information is relevant, current, and appropriate.”
News4JAX asked Ochs what content was identified as “inappropriate” and/or “advocacy,” but did not receive an immediate reply.
Civil rights organizations blasted the move saying it’s a callous, political maneuver aimed at appeasing Gov. Ron DeSantis’ anti-LGBTQ supporters.
“We are shocked by the Florida Department of Education’s (DOE) callous willingness to risk student safety, including that of Florida’s LGBTQ+ children and youth,” said Scott McCoy, interim deputy legal director with Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund. “The state’s anti-bullying policy and accompanying links on its portal were not created in a vacuum, but to protect the entire student body.”
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.