DOE removes anti-bullying page, LGBTQ+ links from website

According to a Florida Department of Education spokesperson, it had received a complaint that some of the external website links on the page were “inappropriate.”

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Department of Education is facing backlash after removing anti-bullying policies and resources from its website. The page included content geared toward LGBTQ+ students.

According to a department of education spokesperson, it had received a complaint that some of the external website links on the page were “inappropriate.”

“We take allegations such as that very seriously,” the spokesperson explained. “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.”

Dan Merkan, the policy director for JASMYN – Jacksonville’s LGBTQ+ youth organization, says not having these polices and resources readily available is problematic for any student, but especially for the lesbian, gay, bisexual students who made up almost one-fifth of the Duval County’s student population in 2019.

“It is a travesty to think that we can remove policies and resources from this very large population, simply based on a single complaint to somebody in the government,” Merkan said. “That’s never how it should work, ever.“

He says the Youth Risk Behavior Survey from 2019 shows about one-fourth of LGB students in Duval County report being bullied on school property, one-fourth also reported being electronically bullied.

“It’s critical that everybody take an active role in stopping bullying and harassment to protect these students,” Merkan explained. “So, they can learn, they can be a full part of their schools, they can feel bonded to their communities and they can feel like they don’t need to hide who they are.“

If you or someone you know is in need of  LGBTQ+ resources or services, JASMYN and Equality Florida offers options on their websites.

The full written statement from the Florida Department of Education spokesperson is below:

“Recently, a reporter contacted our office expressing serious concerns indicating that external website links on our school bullying page were very inappropriate. We take allegations such as that very seriously. 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.

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. As you can imagine, our website contains numerous website links to outside sources that we have no control over. The content embedded within those links can also change dramatically without our knowledge. We simply cannot vouch for the content of all of these external sources as we make sure resources align to standards and best practices. 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.

Thankfully, the Florida Department of Education also provides students and their families with access to useful information through other means as well, including direct contact with superintendents, principals and school boards, and by maintaining strong, appropriate curriculums. 

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. 

Director of Communications and External Affairs

Florida Department of Education”

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