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Florida student sued over ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law says school is trying to censor his graduation speech |  KTAB

Zander Moricz is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Florida over the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Zander Moricz is the senior class president at Pine View School in Sarasota County, Florida. He is set to speak at his upcoming high school graduation, but Moricz claims his principal and school administration officials are trying to preemptively silence him and censor his speech.

Moricz is also one of the named plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state of Florida over its recently signed Parental Rights in Education Act, or what critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

“A few days ago, my manager called me into his office and informed me that if my graduation speech referred to my activism or my role as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, the administration of the school had a signal to mute my microphone, end my speech and stop the ceremony,” wrote Moricz on Twitter. “I’m the first openly gay class president in my school’s history – this censorship seems to show they want me to be the last.”

The Florida-based Social Equity and Education Initiative campaign launched a petition in response, sparking support for #LetZanderSpeak. It has already collected more than 5,600 signatures.

Christopher Covelli, the vice president of non-profit group Project Pride, says he stands with the teenager.

“An educator means you educate, you don’t silence people. Silencing him is wrong. It’s against everything Americans live for. It’s called freedom of expression,” Covelli said.

The WFLA has reached out to Sarasota County Schools for comment regarding the student’s claims that Pine View principals are threatening to mute his microphone if he speaks about certain topics during his graduation speech. diplomas.

In the lengthy statement, the school district confirmed that students were instructed not to make “personal political statements,” but said Moricz’s speech had not yet been reviewed by school officials.

The school district’s remarks, in full, can be read below:

“Each year, our elementary, middle, and high schools review graduation/promotion ceremony expectations and guidelines for speeches, presentations, and performances with their graduates, so students know what to expect. wait during the event. Students participating in the graduation ceremony go through at least one rehearsal of the overall event, with particular emphasis on the timing of performances and speeches. All material performed, spoken or shown during the ceremony is reviewed and approved by school staff and administration to ensure it is appropriate to the tone of the ceremony.

High school graduation ceremonies are an age-old tradition that celebrates the many accomplishments of all graduates and their families, as well as the teachers, staff, and school communities who have contributed to each student’s educational journey. Class presidents, captains of academic or athletic teams, and outstanding community servants are just a few of the many types of student leaders commonly chosen to speak at graduation ceremonies. It is a great privilege to be a graduation speaker – most students share fond memories of school experiences, thank special teachers and staff, and share inspirational messages to help celebrate all seniors in the graduating class as they enter college. , work and adulthood. Out of respect for all who attend the graduation, students are reminded that a graduation should not be a platform for personal political statements, especially those that may disrupt the ceremony. If a student deviates from this expectation upon graduation, appropriate action may need to be taken.

With respect to Pine View School, we can confirm that school administrators annually review student speeches for relevance and length prior to graduation in a consistent manner. applicable law, including the First Amendment to our Constitution. As in the past, student speakers were reminded that graduation is a community celebration and they were encouraged to tailor their remarks to reflect experiences and memories that all students might enjoy to better reflect all facets. promotion achievements. The principal met with Zander Moricz to remind him of the expectations for the ceremony, but the content of the speech has not yet been reviewed.

The school district also shared a statement from the principal of Pine View School.

“We honor and celebrate the incredible diversity of thoughts, beliefs and backgrounds at our school, and champion the uniqueness of each student in their personal and educational journey,” said Principal Dr. Stephen Covert.

School board member Tom Edwards told WFLA he had “love and respect” for Moricz and Dr. Covert.

Zander Moricz says high school students in Florida can apply for free “Say Gay” stickers online, to wear at their own graduation ceremonies. (Pride Project)

“The fact that he’s a plaintiff in the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ lawsuit… frankly, his sense of censure starts with what Tallahassee has done to the hate we hear at school board meetings all the time. We have guidelines for all students when they speak publicly in a commencement speech, but I can certainly understand how Zander might feel censorship because it starts for us in Tallahassee and goes all the way to the guidelines that were offered to him,” Edwards said. “I’ll tell you the school district doesn’t ban First Amendment rights, we don’t ban Zander or any of our rookie speakers or public speakers at school board meetings for that matter” , he continued.

Moricz also said in a open letter to senior state graduates that he had partnered with the Social Equity and Education Initiative to create 10,000 “Say Gay” stickers, to be mailed to high school students across the state. Students requesting the stickers are encouraged to wear them on their gowns as they walk through the stage during graduation.

“This protest will show Governor DeSantis, our Legislature, my principal and all students that even though seniors have finished high school, we are not done fighting,” Moricz wrote.

The Pine View School ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, May 22.


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