Florida school yearbook suspended over photos of students protesting ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

Yearbooks at a Central Florida high school won’t be distributed until images of students holding rainbow flags and a ‘love is love’ sign while protesting the the state’s so-called “don’t say gay” law may be covered up.

District officials said they didn’t want anyone to think the school supported the student walkout.

Lyman High School principal Michael Hunter said in a statement Monday that “images and descriptions” documenting a student walkout in March in response to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act should have been “taken earlier in the review process”.

The bill, signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, prohibits classroom teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

“Rather than reprint the yearbook with substantial cost and delay, we have chosen to cover this material which is not in accordance with council policy so that the yearbooks can be distributed as soon as possible,” the director said. .

In an email Tuesday, Seminole County Public Schools spokesman Michael Lawrence said the issue was not with the protest but how its description in the yearbook could be interpreted as being endorsed by the school, which would violate school board policy.

Lawrence noted that the yearbook devotes a separate page to the school’s Gay Straight Alliance Club and elsewhere shows students at a pride march and holding rainbow flags. He said these representations are consistent with the policy.

“The issue here isn’t the photos or the subject the students were protesting about,” Lawrence said. “If these elements were captured earlier before printing, simple edits/adjustments could probably have happened to make this section conform before printing.”

When asked what should have been changed, Lawrence said, “to make it clear that this particular event was a ‘student-run’ event that was not sponsored, endorsed, or promoted by the district or school. would have solved the problem.

School officials determined that the least expensive solution would be to cover this section so that yearbooks could still be distributed to seniors before graduation and to the rest of the student body before summer vacation, a he declared.

The yearbook’s education consultant, Danielle Pomeranz, told the Orlando Sentinel that she was asked to check for stickers on photos and captions illustrating the walkout. She said it would cost $45,000 to reprint the 600 directories.

“This really shouldn’t be happening because all we did as journalists was document what was happening at our school on our campus,” said Skye Tiedemann, one of the yearbook’s editors, at the Sentinel. “Having that covered is not fair. … It’s censorship.

Tiedemann told WKMG that the students were supposed to hold a party on Monday to have their classmates sign the yearbooks, but that was canceled.

Students at Longwood School, near Orlando, have created a “#stopthestickers” hashtag, which is circulating on social media. They also planned a peaceful protest at Tuesday night’s Seminole County School Board meeting, WKMG reported.

Rep. Carlos G. Smith, a Democrat who is the state’s first Latino LGBTQ lawmaker, said in a tweet that “the censorship is a direct result of the law these students were protesting against. #WeWillNotBeErased in this so-called “free state”. »

DeSantis frequently refers to “the Free State of Florida” in his press conferences.

State Representative Anna Eskamani, an Orlando-area Democrat, said in a letter to school board members that she was disappointed with the decision.

“Students were empowered to create a yearbook that reflected their lived experience of the academic year, and did so professionally — sharing a piece of history on the Lyman campus that should be reflected upon,” Eskamani said. “Uncensored.”

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