News (USA)

Florida teachers forced to explain they’re not teaching kids to be gay

Ron DeSantis
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Members of a culture-warring Florida school district spent a contentious eight-and-a-half hours at a school board meeting expressing their exasperation with the divisiveness plaguing the schools.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, topics at the meeting included book bans, LGBTQ+ rights, and the “overall direction of the … district and its closely divided board.”

Many speakers (there were over 100) denounced the right-wing propaganda claiming teachers are indoctrinating children to be LGBTQ+.

“No one is teaching your kids to be gay!” said former math teacher Alyssa Marano, who recently resigned from the Hernando school district. “Sometimes, they just are gay. I have math to teach. I literally don’t have time to teach your kids to be gay.”

The district gained notoriety in May when the Florida Department of Education began investigating a Hernando fifth-grade teacher, Jenna Barbee, for showing her class the Disney movie Strange World, which contains a scene where one of the male characters says he has a crush on a boy. Barbee has since resigned.

But Barbee is just the beginning. About 50 teachers are reportedly planning to resign due to the school’s hostile environment.

At the board meeting, teacher Daniel Scott decried the “draconian working conditions that are causing many such as myself to abandon this honored career.”

“I don’t feel that I can adequately provide a safe environment for my students anymore,” Scott said.

Students and parents also spoke, with one saying the school’s “war on woke” is actually a war on the students’ futures.

Amelie Howell, a sophomore in high school, held a sign that said “Education is not indoctrination” and told the board, “It feels like a lot of people are speaking for us. Nobody is asking what we want.”

According to the Times, meeting attendees also included Proud Boys and members of the anti-LGBTQ+ organization Moms for Liberty.

As part of his own war on so-called “woke” culture, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has been helping Moms for Liberty members get elected to local Florida school boards.

Shannon Rodriguez, a Hernando board member who was endorsed by Moms for Liberty, is the one who reported Barbee for showing the Disney film.

Both Rodriguez and fellow Board member Mark Johnson – whose campaign was focused on opposing critical race theory – have caused controversy in the district after campaigning to remove Superintendent John Stratton, whom they have accused of supporting “indoctrination.”

Stratton survived the vote of no confidence, with one board member, Susan Duval, saying you “could never find a better superintendent.”

Meetings like this are the product of a Florida culture war continually stoked by DeSantis, who recently announced his campaign for President.

Beginning with the 2022 passage of the Don’t Say Gay law – which prohibits class instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade – DeSantis and the Republican-controlled legislature have devoted their tenure to demonizing LGBTQ+ people and making schools less safe for LGBTQ+ students.

DeSantis and the Florida GOP have been so hostile to the LGBTQ+ community that the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ rights organization – joined Equality Florida to issue a travel advisory for the state.

On May 17, DeSantis signed a slate of laws targeting LGBTQ+ people, including a ban on gender-affirming care for minors, restrictions on such care for adults, a ban on all-ages drag shows, and an anti-trans bathroom bill.

DeSantis has gone to war with Disney over its opposition to the Don’t Say Gay law, has launched numerous blindsides attacking “woke indoctrination” in schools, and has taken control of the state’s education system with handpicked administrators and the power of the bully pulpit. His staff has regularly smeared LGBTQ+ people and allies on social media with vile slurs and insinuations of sexual abuse.

The Don’t Say Gay law – which has been expanded to all grades – has led to the banning of LGBTQ+ books in schools and the forced outing of students to their parents by school administrators. 

In 2021, DeSantis signed a bill banning trans students from participating in school sports.

DeSantis has ranted against “woke gender ideology” and once claimed, “In the state of Florida, we are not going to allow them to inject transgenderism into kindergarten.”

LGBTQ+ students in Florida are so scared of repercussions that many have refused to speak with LGBTQ Nation about their experiences. A non-LGBTQ+ student told us that terrified queer students are learning to “shut up and keep their head low.”

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