Scrappy Florida students defeat school’s pathetic attempt to cover up ‘Don’t Say Gay’ protest
Florida students have defeated their high school administration’s plan to cover up a yearbook page showing a walkout against the state’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.
Lyman High School made headlines on 9 May after its principal delayed distribution of the school’s yearbook because it contained photos of a student-led protest against Florida’s reviled ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.
Principal Michael Hunter said the “pictures and descriptions” in question “did not meet school board policy”, Click Orlando reported. As such, Hunter said the school had “elected to cover that material” with stickers “so that yearbooks can be distributed as soon as possible”.
However, Lyman High School students fiercely fought back against the plan to cover up the page, which shows students waving LGBTQ+ Pride flags and holding up “love is love” signs during the protest.
🧵 CENSORSHIP ALERT: Administrators of Seminole County Public Schools in Florida have prevented the distribution of @LymanJournalism yearbook because of a spread documenting the student walkout over the state's "Don't Say Gay" law. pic.twitter.com/9M3RxJOJjC
— Student Press Law Center (@SPLC) May 9, 2022
Students created a hashtag, #stopthestickers, and it eventually caught the attention of Florida state representative Carlos Guillermo Smith.
Smith, the state’s first LGBTQ+ Latino legislator, tweeted that the “censorship is a direct result of the law these students were protesting”.
A Seminole County HS is literally COVERING UP school protests against #DontSayGay in their 2022 yearbook.
This censorship is a direct result of the law these students were protesting. #WeWillNotBeErased in this so-called "free state".
— Rep. Carlos G Smith (@CarlosGSmith) May 9, 2022
Members of the Seminole County School Board sided with the students and unanimously rejected the school’s plans.
The school board voted 5-0 to order smaller stickers that won’t cover up the protest imagery and words but instead explain the demonstration was not authorised by the school, the Associated Press reported.
Broad chair Amy Pennock even offered to pay “out of my own personal pocket” for different stickers that said the student protest wasn’t a school-sponsored event.
Abby Sanchez, the vice-chair of the Seminole County School Board, added that the dispute was making news “all over the world” and said it was the “most ridiculous thing”.
Over 30 students, parents and teachers spoke out against the school’s sticker plan during the Seminole County School Board meeting.
Sara Ward, a student on the Lyman High School yearbook staff, told the board: “It is silencing the LGBTQ+ community and silencing the journalistic community.”
Before the vote, Superintendent Serita Beamon told students that the decision was “not about the Lyman High School administration looking to try and target any student” or to “silence any voice”.
“There is some speech that is prohibited,” she added. “And that includes speech that is likely to cause substantial disruption or that materially interferes with school activities or the educational process.”
Lyman High School Yearbook Club member Maya Gluck told Fox 35 Orlando that students were “all super nervous about what was going to happen” and were ecstatic that their coverage of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ protest will stay in the publication.
“I think the result was fair, and we’re really happy they’re not covering our content,” Gluck said.
Fellow yearbook staffer Skye Tiedemann said the night was a clear win for students and showed the power of young people standing up for what they believe.
“Don’t be afraid to speak up,” Tiedemann said, “because students, they do have a chance to change things.”
Florida’s reviled ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation, which was signed into law in March, forbids discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms throughout the state.
Countless LGBTQ+ advocates, educators, celebs, allies and organisations have denounced the legislation for erasing queer lives from Florida schools as well as putting LGBTQ+ youth at risk.
Lyman High School staff told Click Orlando that they are working on getting the new disclaimer stickers printed, and it will take up to two weeks for the yearbooks to be distributed once language is approved.