A Hernando County teacher is under investigation by the state — for showing a Disney movie to her students.
Jenna Barbee, who teaches fifth grade, went on TikTok to share how she is being accused of “indoctrination” after playing “Strange World,” which has a gay character.
“I chose this movie because it relates to our curriculum. Our unit at the time was earth science and ecosystems and how they interact … so this movie was perfect,” she explained.
After a morning of standardized testing, Barbee treated her students to “a brain break” by watching the Disney movie “Strange World.” The 2022 animated movie tells the story of a family who goes on an expedition underground. At the beginning of the school year, she and other fifth grade teachers collected signed permission slips from parents to allow their children to watch PG movies in class. “Strange World” is rated PG due to “action, peril, and some thematic elements.”
However, Hernando County School Board member and parent Shannon Rodriguez reported Barbee to the Department of Education, saying the movie was inappropriate. In a statement to NPR, school district spokesperson Karen Jordan said the movie violated the Parental Rights in Education Bill, also known as “Don’t Say Gay,” and that parents were sent a note that the movie had been shown.
"While not the main plot of the movie, parts of the story involves a male character having and expressing feelings for another male character," the note reads. "In the future, this movie will not be shown."
Barbee said she had a meeting with Rodriguez to discuss the incident, and she “understood her perspective.” However, she also learned that Rodriguez had already reported her and that she was being investigated. Barbee was called to speak with administration and an investigator also pulled students from her class to talk to them.
“Do you know the trauma that that is going to cause to some of my students? They are fifth graders,” she said in the TikTok video. “Some of them can barely come up and have a conversation with me and are just getting comfortable with me and now an investigator is allowed to come and interrogate them?”
During a May 9 school board meeting, Shannon Rodriguez said Barbee was playing the victim when she should have gotten specific permission for that movie.
“It is not a teacher’s job to impose their beliefs upon a child: religious, sexual orientation, gender identity, any of the above. But allowing movies such as this assists teachers in opening a door, and please hear me, they assist teachers in opening a door for conversations that have no place in our classrooms,” Rodriguez said.
Barbee told CNN that even before the incident, she put in her resignation due to “politics and the fear of not being able to be who you are.” During the school board meeting, Barbee said that Rodriguez was pushing her own religious beliefs, going as far as believing God appointed her to the board.
Rodriguez appeared to agree.
“As a leader in this community, I’m not going to stand by and allow this minority to infiltrate our schools … God did put me here.”