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Student says school won’t let him run for class president after he organized Don’t Say Gay protests

Florida don't say gay bill, student walkouts, Florida, Ron DeSantis
Florida students protest the "Don't say gay" bill Photo: Nadine Smith

Jack Petocz — a 17-year-old senior at Flagler Palm Coast High School in Palm Coast, Florida — has accused his school’s administrators of forbidding him from running for class president because he organized a massive student walkout in protest of the state’s recently passed “Don’t Say Gay” law.

In March, Petocz organized statewide protests against the then-proposed law. He handed out over 200 flags to students who attended a walkout at his school. Over 500 people participated in the walkout, Petocz said in a letter he posted on Twitter.

Related: Students across Florida walkout of classes in protest of “Don’t say gay” bill

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Petocz said that as students entered the protest, “the district had staff on-site to confiscate pride flags and other symbols of students’ identities… [telling students] they weren’t allowed and were merely a ‘political statement.’… I stood up to this behavior, telling students to keep their flags and continue marching on bravely.”

He then said that as soon as the walkout concluded, he was called into his principal’s office and then placed on a four-day suspension from classes. Upon returning to school, he said that school administrators assured him that he wouldn’t face any disciplinary action. However, he later discovered that the school had placed a level 3 referral on his record, a disciplinary measure that rendered him unable to run for senior class president.

“I am continuing to be punished for standing up for my identity and against widespread hatred,” Petocz wrote. “I’ve emailed administration and the principal numerous times, they’re simply ignoring me.”

He is now asking his supporters to send an email to his school’s administrators to protest the disciplinary action taken against him. He adds that other students across the state are also facing “similar intimidation” from adults because of their involvement in protesting the Don’t Say Gay law.

“I won’t be discouraged by this obvious attempt to silence our voices,” he wrote. “We will keep protesting, we will keep speaking, we will keep fighting until no child is subject to this kind of abuse of power. Queer and trans students are beautiful and loved no matter what the state has to say about it. Florida and beyond is bound to change due to the work and unrelenting spirit of Gen-Z.”

Petocz is correct about other Florida students being harassed by their schools for protesting the law. Officials in the Seminole County School District tried to censor the Lyman High School yearbook by placing stickers over images of students protesting the law. After an organized #StopTheSticker campaign, the officials dropped their censorious plan.

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