JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – 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 aimed at LGBTQ youth.
According to FDOE spokesman Jared Ochs, the department had received a complaint that some of the external website links on the page were “inappropriate”.
“We take such allegations very seriously,” Ochs said in an email response to News4JAX. “Therefore, out of great caution, we have removed the page to verify its relevance. Information regarding bullying still exists in several parts of our website.
Ochs said the external links reviewed by the FDOE led to US Department of Education webpages, which the spokesperson said are now used as “advocacy platforms.”
“We simply cannot vouch for the content of all of these external sources, as we make sure the resources meet standards and best practices,” Ochs said. “As a result of content found on the US DOE website, we are now reviewing all links to the federal government on our website to ensure the information is relevant, up-to-date and appropriate.”
News4JAX asked Ochs what content had been identified as “inappropriate” and/or “advocacy”, but did not receive an immediate response.
Civil rights organizations blasted the move, saying it was a ruthless political maneuver aimed at appeasing Gov. Ron DeSantis’ anti-LGBTQ supporters.
“We are shocked by the Florida Department of Education’s (DOE) ruthless willingness to put the safety of students, including Florida’s LGBTQ+ children and youth, at risk,” said Scott McCoy, acting deputy general counsel of the 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 of Equality Florida said the department’s decision to take down the page won’t just impact LGBTQ students.
“These are important resources on bullying prevention and ultimately suicide prevention that serve the benefit of all students,” Maurer said.
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