JACKSONVILLE, Florida – The Florida Department of Education (FDOE) is defending its decision to remove a page from its website that contains links to anti-harassment 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, very cautiously, we have scrolled down the page to check its relevance. Information regarding bullying still exists in several parts of our website.
Ochs said the external links examined by the FDOE lead to the US Department of Education web pages, which the spokesperson said are now being used as “advocacy platforms.”
“We just can’t guarantee the content from all of these external sources because we make sure that the resources align with standards and best practices,” Ochs said. “As a result, from the content found on the US DOE website, we are now reviewing all federal government links on our website to ensure that the information is relevant, up-to-date and appropriate. “
News4JAX asked Ochs what content was identified as “inappropriate” and / or “plea”, but did not receive an immediate response.
Civil rights organizations have lambasted the move, saying it was a ruthless political move to appease Governor Ron DeSantis’ anti-LGBTQ supporters.
“We are shocked at the callous willingness of the Florida Department of Education (DOE) to risk the safety of students, including the safety of LGBTQ + children and youth in Florida,” said Scott McCoy, Acting Deputy Legal Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund. “The state’s anti-bullying policy and the accompanying links to 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 pull the page down would not only impact LGBTQ students.
“These are important resources that relate to bullying prevention and ultimately suicide prevention that serve the best interests of all students,” Maurer said.
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