Yearbooks at a central Florida high school will not be distributed until images of students holding rainbow flags and a “love is love” sign can be hidden in protest of the state’s “Don’t Tell Gay” law. District officials said they don’t want anyone who thinks the school supports the student walk.
Lyman High School Principal Michael Hunter said in a statement Monday that “photos and descriptions” documenting a student’s trip out in March in response to Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law should have been “captured earlier in the review process. ”
The bill, signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, violates classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
“Rather than reprint the yearbook at significant cost and delay, we have chosen to cover that material that does not comply with board policy so that yearbooks can be distributed as quickly as possible,” said the head teacher’s statement.
In an email Tuesday, Seminole County Public Schools spokesman Michael Lawrence said the issue was not about the protest but how his picture in the yearbook could be interpreted as being approved by the school, which ‘ is contrary to school board policy.
Lawrence noted that the yearbook dedicates a separate page to the school’s Straight Gay Alliance Club and elsewhere shows students in a pride parade and holding rainbow flags. He said those drawings complied with the policy.
“The issue here is not the photos or the subject the students were protesting about,” said Lawrence. “If these items had been captured earlier before being printed, it is likely that some simple editing / tweaking would have taken place to make that section compliant prior to printing.”
When asked what would have needed to be said, Lawrence said, “it would be made explicit that this particular event was a ‘student’ led event that was not sponsored, endorsed or promoted by the district or the school has resolved the issue. ”
School officials decided the least expensive solution would be to hide that section so the yearbooks can still be distributed to seniors before graduation and the rest of the student body before the summer holidays, he said.
Yearbook faculty adviser Danielle Pomeranz told the Orlando Sentinel that she was asked to check to put stickers over the pictures and captions depicting the walk. He said it would cost $ 45,000 to reprint the 600 yearbooks.
“This really shouldn’t be happening because all we did as journalists was document what was happening at our school on our campus,” Skye Tiedemann, one of the yearbook’s chief editors, told the Sentinel. “Covering that is not right … This is censorship.”
Tiedemann told WKMG that students were supposed to have a party on Monday to get yearbooks signed by their classmates, but that was canceled.
Students at the school in Longwood, near Orlando, have created a hashtag “#stopthestickers,” which circulates on social media. They also planned a peaceful protest at Tuesday night’s Seminole County School Board meeting, WKMG reported.
Rep. Carlos G. Smith, a Democrat who is the state’s first Latino LGBTQ legislator, tweeted that the “censorship was a direct result of the law that these students protested. #WeWillNotBeErased in what is known as the ‘free state.’
DeSantis frequently refers to the “free state of Florida” in his news conferences.
State Rep. Anna Eskamani, a Democrat from the Orlando area, said in a letter to school board members that she was disappointed by the decision.
“Students were empowered to produce a yearbook that reflects their lived experience of the academic year and did so with professionalism – sharing a piece of history on the Lyman campus, one to reflect on,” said Eskamani. “Not censored.”