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Florida Students Pushed Back, Stopped School Board From Censoring Yearbook Photos of ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Protest

The school board's plan was to cover the photos with stickers.
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Thanks to some intense pushback from Florida high school students and their supporters, a recent attempt to censor photos of an LGBTQ+ rights protest from its yearbook has been quashed.

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The Seminole County school board tried to censor photos in Lyman High School’s yearbook documenting a student walk-out in March over the state’s passage of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which bars educators from discussing issues related to gender identity and sexual orientation. The school board claimed the issue with the pictures was that they depicted a non-school-sponsored event although students say other similar events (even other types of protests) are still in the yearbook.

Making all of this even more egregious, since the yearbooks are already printed, the school was planning to go through each one cover the pictures and captions manually, which seems like an incredible amount of work to put into denying the existence of LGBTQ+ people until you remember that these are Florida officials and that’s basically their entire raison d’être.

Local outlet WKMG Click Orlando wrote:

A statement sent by [school principal Michael] Hunter reads in part, “Unfortunately, the pictures and descriptions that depicted this event did not meet school board policy and were not caught earlier in the review process. Rather than reprinting the yearbook at substantial cost and delay, we have elected to cover that material that is out of compliance with board policy so that yearbooks can be distributed as soon as possible.”

Students said school administrators are requiring them to cover the photos with stickers. That prompted students to create the hashtag “Stop the Stickers” which is now circulating on social media.

After bringing a massive amount of attention to the issue online, students showed up to a school board meeting this week, where the board voted unanimously not to cover the photos and captions as planned. They are still adding stickers to the page, but not to obstruct the images, just to add a disclaimer explaining that the protest was not a school event.

That still seems wildly unnecessary but it’s better than the original plan.

Click Orlando writes:

Students said they now realize how powerful their voices are.

“I’m so validated, like, I feel so good as a citizen, as a student, as a yearbook member — I feel so good right now,” yearbook member Olivia Booth said.

Booth’s peer, Skye Tiedemann, said there is a big message here.

“Don’t be afraid to speak up, because students, they do have a chance to change things,” Tiedemann said.

(via HuffPost, image: Sam Balye on Unsplash)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.