Students win in dispute over ‘Don’t Say Gay’ protest images in Florida yearbooks

‘We were all super nervous about what was going to happen,’ student says

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 11 May 2022 17:20
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Disclaimer sticker to be added to page featuring ‘Don’t Say Gay’ walkout in school yearbook

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Florida High School students have won a dispute over the inclusion of photos from protests against the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay”-law in their yearbooks.

Members of the Seminole County School Board agreed to leave the rainbow flag images uncensored after being lobbied by the students from Lymon High School in Longwood, near Orlando in Central Florida.

The page showing the students’ walkout in protest of the Parental Right In Education bill was initially going to be obscured but the superintendent was overruled by the board, which voted to instead add a note to the page stating that the school didn’t support the walkout.

One of the board members said the plan to censor the page showing the protest was ridiculous, and several others offered to pay to fix the issue with their own cash.

After a delay was initially expected, the students are now thought to be able to get their yearbooks sometime this week.

School district officials at first said that the images of students holding rainbow flags and a “love is love” sign would have to be covered to avoid the interpretation that the school supported the action.

In a statement on Monday, Lyman High School Principal Michael Hunter said that the “pictures and descriptions” showing the March student walkout should have been “caught earlier in the review process”.

The bill was signed into law by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

“Rather than reprinting the yearbook at substantial cost and delay, we have elected to cover that material that is out of compliance with board policy so that yearbooks can be distributed as soon as possible,” the principal said earlier this week before being overruled.

Seminole County Public Schools spokesman Michael Lawrence said on Tuesday that the issue wasn’t with the protest but how its depiction in the yearbook could be interpreted as being endorsed by the school, which would be in violation of the school board’s policy.

“The issue at hand here is not the photos or the topic for which the students were protesting,” Mr Lawrence wrote in an email. “If these items were caught earlier prior to print, some simple editing/tweaking likely could’ve occurred to make that section in compliance prior to print.”

He said it would need to be made “clear that this particular event was a ‘student’-led event that was not sponsored, endorsed, or promoted by the district or school would’ve solved the issue”.

Following the board’s decision on Tuesday to add a disclaimer instead of censoring the page, students were relieved.

“Honestly, we were all super nervous about what was going to happen. I think the result was fair, and we’re really happy they’re not covering our content,” student Maya Gluck told Fox 35 Orlando.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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