Conservatives may have won the battle of the “Don’t Say Gay” law, but the war is just beginning.
More students are speaking up and fighting back. Zander Moricz, an 18-year-old at Pine View School, is one of these students.
Moricz from Sarasota County developed a name for himself when he drew national attention for his activism, according to the Sun Sentinel.
“I am the youngest public plaintiff in the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ lawsuit. I am my Florida high school’s first openly gay Class President. I am being silenced, and I need your help,” he wrote on Twitter.
He is not the only teen fighting against the Parental Rights in Education dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law. Lyman High School students held a walkout in March holding rainbow flags and a “love is love” sign, MSN reported. A recent graduate, Madi Koesler, captured the images during the protest.
"These are my photos and I think the students should be able to see them because taking away these photos is silencing their voices," Koesler told wesh.com. "This was a protest that wasn't met with much resistance by the administration and we were easily able to take pictures of the kids in the courtyard. They were celebrated; they were chanting."
The Seminole County School Board wanted to censor the photos, but after a public backlash, they reversed the decision.
While graduation approaches, Broward high schools formed small committees to review speeches before the ceremonies to warn students to steer clear of speech they’ve deemed too “political or controversial” such as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, the Sentinel reported.
“I can’t imagine we wouldn’t let these kids say that at graduation,” Broward School Board Member Sarah Leonardi said. “But I guess never say never.”
Cheng, who uses she/her and they/them pronouns, said limiting students’ speeches goes against Freedom of Speech when they’re standing up for human rights and equality. Cheng also said that “conforming to the stereotypical congratulation speech” cannot be the answer since it doesn’t address the minority groups in school.
However, schools would be allowed to do that, according to a professor at the University of Florida.
“I think schools have to weigh this and be sensitive to the sense of political speech involved,” Clay Calvert said, according to the Sentinel. “They’ll need to try to strike a balance regardless of what the law is here. A graduation speech would be considered school-supervised speech, though it’s not technically part of the curriculum.”
Students will still be allowed to wear Pride flags, pins, stickers and more at the graduation ceremonies though.
The Sarasota County School District said the principal at Pine View School met with Moricz to remind him of the expectations for the ceremony, the Sentinel reported.
In a statement a spokesperson wrote, “Out of respect for all those attending the graduation, students are reminded that graduation should not be a platform for personal political statements, especially those likely to disrupt the ceremony. Should a student vary from this expectation during the graduation, it may be necessary to take appropriate action.”
Although the law takes effect July 1, it’s already affecting public schools. Palm Beach County School Superintendent Mike Burke said he would pull two children’s LGBT books off the shelves in order to review them: “Call Me Max” and “I Am Jazz.” The books feature trans characters who describe their differences and discuss things such as names, pronouns and bathroom choices.