11:06 AM PDT, May 12, 2022
Students in Florida can publish photos of themselves protesting the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill in their school yearbooks following a win in a dispute with a superintendent, CBS News reported.
Seminole County School Board overruled the Longwood superintendent’s plan to censor students waving rainbow Pride flags and a “love is love” sign in images from a protest of the controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Stickers were planned to go over the images of the flags, which support LGBQTIA+ pride, and over the “love is love” sign. The stickers had already arrived at the district and were ready to go on the yearbooks, CBS News reported.
Students from Longwood, which is near Orlando, responded to the sticker censorship in the social media campaign, which has since gone viral using the #StopTheStickers moniker in posts. The campaign eventually caught attention of politicians including Democratic Rep. Carlos G. Smith, Florida’s first LGBTQ Latino legislator, who tweeted that the “censorship is a direct result of the law these students were protesting,” ABC News reported.
The superintendent argued to the school board that the page violated their policy by seeming to endorse a student walkout, CBS News reported.
In a 5-0 vote Tuesday night, the school board members rejected the superintendent’s argument, but did order smaller stickers that don’t cover up the words seen on signs and pictures of flags, explaining that the March student protest over the Florida Parental Rights in Education bill outside Lyman High School was unauthorized, CBS News reported.
“I would be happy out of my own personal pocket to pay for different stickers to say this was not a school-sponsored event,” Board Chair Amy Pennock said to applause from the crowd.
Another board member, Abby Sanchez, also offered to pay for smaller stickers, added “We’re now all over the world on this. This is the most ridiculous thing. These are our children! We need to do what’s right for them.”
The controversial bill, signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in March, bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
Following the bill being signed, students from the district protested and images were put in the yearbook. Earlier this month, it was noted by the school that the yearbook review staff missed the images and the superintendent wanted them covered up to showcase that the school was not endorsing the protests, CBS News reported.
“The issue at hand here is not the photos or the topic for which the students were protesting,” Seminole County Public Schools spokesman Michael Lawrence said in a statement obtained by CBS News. “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.”