A Florida class president says that he's feeling silenced after the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill was passed by the Republican legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL).
As NBC News reports, principal Stephen Covert of Pine View School in Osprey, Florida, told senior Zander Moricz that any mention of anything involving LGBTQ+ would get his microphone cut off during his graduation speech.
"He said that he just 'wanted families to have a good day' and that if I was to discuss who I am and the fight to be who I am, that would 'sour the celebration,'" Moricz recalled. “It was incredibly dehumanizing."
The principal refused to talk to the media but the school put his name on their press release saying Sarasota County Schools “champion the uniqueness of every single student on their personal and educational journey."
The school also said that the principal routinely reviews content to ensure it's "appropriate" for the audience.
"Out of respect for all those attending the graduation, students are reminded that a graduation should not be a platform for personal political statements, especially those likely to disrupt the ceremony," the district said. "Should a student vary from this expectation during the graduation, it may be necessary to take appropriate action."
It's unclear if the school would extend the same requirement for a student speaking about their faith, their race, their personal family situation, whether their parents were immigrants, or any other experience that could be deemed "political." Such speeches often give students an opportunity to talk about their experience and thank their families.
In an interview with NBC News, Moricz speculated that the principal is worried because he led Sarasota County’s largest protest in opposition to the state's "Don't Say Gay" bill.
The statewide student walkouts in March drew thousands, but in the days leading to the event, Moricz said that school officials tore down posters and told him to cancel the protest. A school official denied removing posters before the protests, but NBC News' report didn't deny that Moricz was told to stop the walkout.
Later in March, Moricz joined a group of students, parents, educators and advocates in a federal lawsuit for the law, saying it would “stigmatize, silence, and erase LGBTQ people in Florida’s public schools.”
“The reason something like the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law seems like nothing but is actually everything is that when you cannot talk about or share who you are, there is a constant subconscious affirmation that you are not valid, that you should not exist,” Moricz said.
The report noted that this week, school officials at Lyman High School in Longwood, Florida, refused to allow yearbooks to be distributed until photos of students protesting the state’s LGBTQ legislation were pasted over. The district’s school board stepped in, overruling the decision when parents and students accused officials of engaging in censorship.
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