Florida’s Department of Education has removed LGBTQ-inclusive antibullying resources from its website.
The Florida Capital Star, a right-wing publication, had raised questions about the inclusion of the resources, and last week the DOE took down this information, pending review, from the portal for the DOE’s Office of Safe Schools. Florida legislators created the office in the wake of the mass shooting in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
The Capital Star appeared to be shocked that the portal included links to LGBTQ+ groups such as GLSEN, which supports LGBTQ+ students and educators. The publication described GLSEN as “part of a billion dollar network that funds LGBTQ groups” and said, “These groups are focused on initiatives that promote gender identity and transgenderism by training leaders in political activism.” (Of course, “gender identity” can be either cisgender or transgender, and GLSEN does not seek to make people transgender but rather promotes acceptance and understanding of those who are.)
The Capital Star also objected to the site having a link to StopBullying.gov, a federal government website that discusses bullying of all types, including anti-LGBTQ+ bullying, and how to end it. At one point StopBullying.gov included language advising school officials not to share information with parents about students’ sexual orientation or gender identity unless a student was in immediate danger, but this language appears to be gone.
This year Florida passed a bill creating a Parents’ Bill of Rights, ostensibly to help parents control their children’s education, but some activists worried it would force educators to out LGBTQ+ students to their parents. Conservative forces saw the StopBullying.gov advice, however, as interfering with parents’ rights.
Statewide LGBTQ+ rights group Equality Florida denounced the removal of the LGBTQ+ resources, calling it yet another homophobic and transphobic action from the administration of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“Attacks on LGBTQ students from Tallahassee are fueling a toxic, dangerous environment on the ground,” Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith said in a press release. “From the passage of explicitly anti-transgender legislation this year to proposed legislation that would jail doctors and parents for providing lifesaving medical care to transgender children, a politically motivated assault on the LGBTQ community is putting young people at risk. Vulnerable youth deserve better than a DeSantis Administration intent on putting them in harm’s way in order to score cheap political points.”
She noted the disproportionate rate of bullying and violence faced by LGBTQ+ youth and the fact that they are far more likely to attempt suicide than their straight and cisgender peers. She also mentioned calls to ban books with LGBTQ+ content.
“The facts are clear: LGBTQ young people need more support in our schools, not less,” Smith said. “We protect the lives of our youth by equipping administrators, educators, and parents with the tools necessary to affirm and create safe learning environments for them. These resources are a critical component of creating truly safe schools. They must be reinstated.”
In October, Texas took a similar action, removing information about a suicide prevention hotline for LGBTQ+ youth from a state website after one of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s primary challengers criticized him for having it up.