More than 500 students at Winter Park High School in Orange County, Florida walked out in protest of the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill was passed in the House Education and Employment Committee was passed in the state’s House of Representatives last month and the Florida Senate has already begun to debate the bill after it cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee by a 12-8 vote.
The bill, colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, aims to “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of 9 their children in a specified manner.”
The bill aims to prohibit “a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a specified manner” and authorizes parents to “bring an action against a school district to obtain a declaratory judgment that a school district procedure or practice violates certain provisions of law.”
The walkout was organized by high school juniors Will Larkins and Maddi Zornek. Students began leaving their classes at 9 a.m. Monday with some chanting, “We say gay!”
“We wanted to show our government that this isn’t going to stop,” Larkins told CNN. “There were walkouts all last week. This is going to continue. If this passes, there will be protests everywhere. We wanted to get the attention of our representatives, our senators, because the point is to show them that we are the ones in powers. The people are the ones in powers, and what they’re doing doesn’t represent us, especially marginalized groups.”
Last month, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, indicated he would support the legislation, calling it “entirely inappropriate” for educators to speak to students about their gender identity.
“Schools need to be teaching kids to read, to write,” DeSantis said. “They need to teach them science, history. We need more civics and understanding of the U.S. Constitution, what makes our country unique, all those basic things.”
The walkout at Winter Park High School isn’t the only student protest going on in the state.
Jack Petocz, a junior at Flagler Palm Coast High School in Palm Coast, told reporters that he was suspended for passing out Pride flags to students, noting that he’d been told by the principal that he was not allowed to give them out.
“He went further to question the intentions of our protest, asking if pride flags were relevant to opposition to the bill,” Petocz told The Daytona Beach News-Journal. “I decided to move forward and handed the flags to other student organizers for distribution at the event.”
“They suspended me from campus until further notice,” he said. “I informed the principal I wasn’t going to speak with him and was going to talk to a lawyer.”
Alan is a writer, editor, and news junkie based in New York.