School Climate & Safety

Fla. High School to Cover Yearbook Photos of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Student Protests

By Skyler Swisher, Orlando Sentinel — May 10, 2022 3 min read
Marchers wave U.S. and rainbow flags and signs as they walk at the St. Pete Pier in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday, March 12, 2022 during a rally and march to protest the controversial "Don't say gay" bill passed by Florida's Republican-led legislature and now on its way to Gov. Ron DeSantis' desk.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A Seminole County high school is covering up yearbook photos of students protesting Florida’s so-called “don’t say gay” bill, a move that the publication’s staffers call censorship.

Lyman High School’s yearbook features photos of students holding rainbow flags and a “love is love” sign during a walkout protest in March.

But school officials delayed distributing the yearbooks Monday and determined that certain pictures and descriptions “did not meet school board policy,” Michael Hunter, the school’s principal, said in a recorded message.

“Rather than reprinting the yearbook at substantial cost and delay, we have elected to cover the material that is out of compliance with board policy so that yearbooks can be distributed as soon as possible,” he said.

Danielle Pomeranz, the yearbook’s faculty adviser, said she was told to check into placing stickers over photos and captions of the walkout protest.

Students who worked on the yearbook have launched a social media campaign called #stopthestickers.

“This really shouldn’t be happening because all we did as journalists was document what was happening at our school on our campus,” said Skye Tiedemann, one of the yearbook’s editors-in-chief. “To have that covered up isn’t right. ... This is censorship.”

Hunter’s message didn’t explain which material in the yearbook was objectionable or why, but he said distribution was delayed to ensure the yearbook meets all Seminole County School Board policies, “particularly as it pertains to non-school sponsored events contained in school publications.”

“Unfortunately, the pictures and descriptions that depicted this event did not meet school board policy and were not caught earlier in the review process,” he said.

Michael Lawrence, a district spokesman, said school officials decided to cover the photos and captions because they thought the descriptions gave the impression the walkout was a school-sponsored event when it was not.

See Also

Reading & Literacy High School Paper Publishes Article on Student in Porn Industry After Censorship Fight
Sasha Jones, April 30, 2019
3 min read

The yearbook includes a page highlighting the school’s gay-straight alliance club, which met board policy and will not be covered, he said.

About 600 yearbooks were ordered, and it would cost about $45,000 to have them reprinted, Pomeranz said.

Earlier this year, students across Florida walked out of class to protest HB 1557, officially titled Parental Rights in Education but known as the “don’t say gay” bill by opponents. The law bans classroom instruction on “sexual orientation or gender identity” for grades kindergarten through three or in a manner that is not “age appropriate.”

Opponents said the law is vague and will have a chilling effect on the discussion of LGBTQ topics in schools.

Madi Koesler, a college volunteer who took the photos, said censoring the yearbook would validate those fears.

“They are having their voices taken away from them,” said Koesler, a student at Seminole State College and a recent Lyman High School graduate. “As someone who took the photo, it is heartbreaking to see this. This is exactly what they were protesting, and now it is happening to them. It is so disappointing.”

School officials didn’t raise concerns about coverage of a student demonstration published in the yearbook in 2018, Koesler said. That event expressed support for victims of the Parkland school shooting that killed 17 students and staff.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 1988 landmark case that educators could prevent the publication of articles about teenage pregnancy and divorce in a school-sponsored newspaper. Justices wrote, “A school need not tolerate student speech that is inconsistent with its basic educational mission, even though the government could not censor similar speech outside the school.”

See Also

Curriculum 7 Signs That Your School Newspaper Risks Censorship
Catherine Gewertz, October 17, 2019
2 min read

Educators can exercise editorial control in school-sponsored publications as long as their actions are “reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns,” the justices wrote.

But Clay Calvert, a University of Florida law and journalism professor, said he thinks blocking the photos could raise First Amendment issues for the district.

“I don’t see any legitimate teaching concerns here,” Calvert said. “The speech that is being censored is political speech that is at the heart of the First Amendment.”

Copyright (c) 2022, Orlando Sentinel. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Management Webinar
Build a Digitally Responsive Educational Organization for Effective Digital-Age Learning
Chart a guided pathway to digital agility and build support for your organization’s mission and vision through dialogue and collaboration.
Content provided by Bluum
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Drive Instruction With Mastery-Based Assessment
Deliver the right data at the right time—in the right format—and empower better decisions.
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Profession Webinar
How Does Educator Well-Being Impact Social-Emotional Awareness in Schools?
Explore how adult well-being is key to promoting healthy social-emotional behaviors for students. Get strategies to reduce teacher stress.
Content provided by International Baccalaureate

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Accused Gunman in Buffalo Shooting Was Investigated for Threat to His School
The gunman was never charged with a crime and had no further contact with law enforcement after his release from a hospital, officials said.
3 min read
Police walk outside the Tops grocery store on Sunday, May 15, 2022, in Buffalo, N.Y. A white 18-year-old wearing military gear and livestreaming with a helmet camera opened fire with a rifle at the supermarket, killing and wounding people in what authorities described as “racially motivated violent extremism.” (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)
School Climate & Safety Fla. School Board Reverses Decision to Censor Yearbook Photos From ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Protest
The Seminole County School Board scrapped the plan in response to public backlash.
Skyler Swisher, Orlando Sentinel
2 min read
Demonstrators gather on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in front of the Florida State Capitol, Monday, March 7, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida House Republicans advanced a bill, dubbed by opponents as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, to forbid discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, rejecting criticism from Democrats who said the proposal demonizes LGBTQ people.
Demonstrators gather on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in front of the Florida State Capitol, Monday, March 7, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
School Climate & Safety What the Research Says What a Researcher Learned From One School's Underground Snack Market
Cracking down on unofficial school snack sales can have unintended consequences.
5 min read
Hand reaching into a potato chip snack foil bag for chips
iStock/Getty Images Plus
School Climate & Safety Lawmakers in 19 States Want Legal Refuge for Transgender Youth
Democratic lawmakers are following California’s lead in seeking to offer legal refuge to displaced transgender youth and their families.
2 min read
State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, discusses his proposed measure to provide legal refuge to displaced transgender youth and their families during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., March 17, 2022. Democratic lawmakers in more than a dozen states are following California’s lead in seeking to offer legal refuge to displaced transgender youth and their families. The coordinated effort being announced Tuesday, May 3, by the LGBTQ Victory Institute and other advocates comes in response to recent actions taken in conservative states.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, discusses his proposed measure to provide legal refuge to displaced transgender youth and their families during a news conference in Sacramento, Calif., March 17, 2022. Democratic lawmakers in more than a dozen states are following California’s lead in seeking to offer legal refuge to displaced transgender youth and their families. The coordinated effort being announced Tuesday, May 3, by the LGBTQ Victory Institute and other advocates comes in response to recent actions taken in conservative states.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP