Following the removal of anti-bullying resources from the Florida Department of Education website, including information regarding LGBTQ students, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is providing that information instead.
In a Tuesday press release, Fried announced a set of LGBTQ resources hosted on the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website.
“Improving the health, safety, and prosperity of all Floridians, including the hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ Floridians, is my top priority as a member of the Cabinet,” Fried said in a written statement.
“It’s so important that LGBTQ Floridians know that they matter, there are resources to help, and that we will continue to advocate for them,” Fried continued. “That’s why I believe it’s imperative that we make these resources available.”
Advocates complain that removing resources for LGBTQ students is the latest attack on LGBTQ Floridians by the DeSantis administration. Earlier this month, the department scrubbed dozens of informational links from its webpage on “Bullying Prevention.”
Some links offered educators, parents, and students general anti-bullying information, such as how to identify victims and how schools can develop anti-bullying policies.
The state education website also provided resources for targeted groups, including students with disabilities, LGBTQ students, and for discrimination based on race or ethnicity.
The deleted resources can be viewed on the Wayback Machine’s website, an internet archive that saves earlier versions of websites even if edits are made.
Commissioner Fried’s anti-bullying resources include general information on bullying and LGBTQ-focused information. There are materials for students with disabilities and special health needs, but not explicitly for discrimination based on race.
“While the DeSantis administration puts an exclamation point on their bigotry by removing LGBTQ-specific resources, we can’t lose sight of whose lives are at stake: LGBTQ youth. And do everything we can to protect them,” Equality Florida tweeted Tuesday.
The advocacy group called the removal of the LGBTQ resources from the state education department site a “staggering escalation” of the DeSantis administration’s “anti-LGBTQ agenda.”
“Attacks on LGBTQ students from Tallahassee are fueling a toxic, dangerous environment on the ground,” Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, said in a written statement on Dec. 6, when news broke that the LGBTQ resources had been removed by the FL DOE.
Smith continued: “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.”
During the 2021 legislative session, Republican lawmakers successfully pushed legislation that barred transgender girls in high school from participating on women’s and girls’ sports teams.
Instead, these students are required to play on teams that match the gender they were assigned at birth — meaning, transgender women and girls would play on the boys team — regardless of any bullying or discomfort to the student. Transgender boys and men can play on either boys’ or girls’ teams.
Republican lawmakers have provided parents with a tool to direct the education of their students and the Florida education system. It’s known as the ‘Parents’ Bill of Rights,’ signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this year, and had been on the radar of LGBTQ activists during the 2022 legislative session, the Phoenix previously reported.
Among other things, the Parents’ Bill of Rights includes:
- The right to “direct the education” of their minor child and to “direct the upbringing and moral or religious training.”
- The right to inspect instructional materials, including regarding sex education, to decide if the material is appropriate for their child.
- The right to object to instructional materials “based on beliefs regarding morality, sex, and religion or the belief that such materials are harmful.”
- The right to access and review all school records relating to his or her minor child.
Advocates worry that the Parents’ Bill of Rights will lead to LGBTQ students getting “outed,” meaning that their gender or sexuality would be nonconsensually exposed. That could bring harm to students whose parents are not supportive.
Meanwhile, issues surrounding LGBTQ Floridians may be a factor Floridians take into account as they determine who should be the next Florida governor.
Fried is campaigning to be the Democratic candidate in the 2022 gubernatorial election. DeSantis is running for reelection as the Republican candidate.
In the past, Fried has come in behind DeSantis when she thinks he’s dropped the ball, particularly in his response to COVID.
The Florida Department of Education has been a tool for DeSantis’s to accomplish some of his political goals that score points with his conservative base, such as banning critical race theory from Florida classrooms and punishing school boards for implementing mask mandates in schools instead of letting parents decide for their children.
–Danielle J. Brown, Florida Phoenix