A Florida teacher says she’s being investigated for indoctrination for showing her class a Disney movie featuring a gay character.
Jenna Barbee, a fifth-grade teacher at Winding Waters school in Hernando county, said in a six-minute TikTok video that she was reported to Florida’s Department of Education for allegedly violating the Parental Rights in Education Act by showing her 10- and 11-year-old students the 2022 film Strange World. The law, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by its critics, initially banned teachers from discussing gender and sexuality to students until fourth grade, but last month Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis approved an expansion that now covers students of all ages.
Strange World is Disney’s first animated feature to include an openly gay teen character, but its main storyline follows a family of explorers searching for a rare plant that provides energy for their society. Barbee said that was the reason she chose to show this film to her class, as it was relevant to the earth science and ecosystems curriculum. In addition, she said she had signed permission slips from the parents of all pupils in the class, giving their approval for showing PG movies.
In the video, Barbee said the investigation stemmed from the complaint of one student’s mother, who sits on the school board and was on a “rampage to get rid of every form of representation out of our schools.” The teacher alleged that the investigation, which includes pulling her students out of class to interrogate them on the matter, will leave the students traumatized.
Quotable: A loss for representation
“I have a lot of fifth-grade students who have come to me this year, long before showing this movie, talking about how they’re part of [the LGBTQ] community. It’s not a big deal to me. So I just said, OK, awesome, I’m not pushing anything, just being accepting. That’s what I do.” —Jenna Barbee in the TikTok video posted on May 14
Company of interest: Disney
DeSantis, who is rumored to be working on a bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has put teachers at the center of his culture wars, which include book censorship and limits on discussions of issues of race and sexuality in school, pushing a so-called anti-woke platform to win the party’s backing.
DeSantis has also gone after Disney, the largest taxpayer in central Florida, and largest employer in the state, for opposing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The governor is vying to strip Disney off its self-governing status, but the entertainment company etched last-minute agreements to protect its autonomy. The entertainment giant has even hit back with a lawsuit arguing a violation of their first amendment right to free speech.
Twitter user Carl Zee, who identified himself as a friend of Barbee’s, and that first mentioned she was under investigation in a series of tweets on May 11, wrote that “Florida is not safe for teachers,” and suggested Disney add Barbee to its retaliation lawsuit “so she doesn’t have to fight this by herself.”
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