In a staggering escalation of its anti-LGBTQ agenda, the DeSantis Administration took down a Department of Education web page that supplied anti-bullying resources for educators, parents and students to help create safe school environments and address high rates of suicide. The page featured a range of resources including links to federal government anti-bullying initiatives (stopbullying.gov), information on creating safe spaces for LGBTQ young people to receive support from school staff, and additional information from national leaders in combating mental health crises and suicidality among LGBTQ students.
“Attacks on LGBTQ students from Tallahassee are fueling a toxic, dangerous environment on the ground,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida Executive Director. “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.”
The move is just the latest in an alarming effort statewide to turn educational environments and our schools into a political battlefield at the expense of students. Anti-vax, anti-mask extremists have descended on school board meetings across the state, harassing LGBTQ students and intimidating school board members, including with threats of violence. Calls for LGBTQ-inclusive books to be banned have escalated. In response, the DeSantis Administration has doubled down on fanning the flames, vowing to thwart investigations into intimidation, reduce school board races to partisan sound bytes, and now put LGBTQ students in danger in the hopes of a political windfall.
Escalating hostility toward LGBTQ Floridians comes as LGBTQ students continue to face exponentially higher rates of bullying, discrimination, violence, depression, and suicide. Compared with their peers, LGB young people are nearly twice as likely to experience bullying in school, experience sexual violence nearly three times more often, and are four times as likely to attempt suicide. Those disparities grow when discussing outcomes for transgender and nonbinary students. The resources removed from the Department of Education website were all aimed at addressing bullying and suicidality in schools, with a particular focus on LGBTQ young people — those most at risk.
“The facts are clear: LGBTQ young people need more support in our schools, not less,” explained Smith. “We protect the lives and livelihoods 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.”
Equality Florida is the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s LGBTQ community. Through education, grassroots organizing, coalition building, and lobbying, we are changing Florida so that no one suffers harassment or discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. www.equalityflorida.org