Hundreds of students at a central Florida high school were told they won't get their yearbooks until they're censored to cover up images of students holding rainbow flags and a “love is love” sign during a protest of the state's so-called “Don't Say Gay” law.
Lyman High School Principal Michael Hunter said in a statement on Monday that “pictures and descriptions" documenting a student walk-out in March in response to Florida's Parental Rights in Education law were not “caught earlier in the review process."
The bill, signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, bans classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K through 3.
“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," the principal's statement said.
The yearbook's faculty advisor Danielle Pomeranz told the Orlando Sentinel that she was asked to check into putting stickers over the photos and captions depicting the walkout. She said it would cost $45,000 to reprint the 600 yearbooks.
“This really shouldn’t be happening because all we did as journalists was document what was happening at our school on our campus,” Skye Tiedemann, one of the yearbook’s editors-in-chief, told the Sentinel. “To have that covered up isn’t right. ... This is censorship.”
Tiedemann told local media that students were supposed to have a party on Monday to have yearbooks signed by their classmates, but that was canceled.
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Students at the school in Longwood, which is near Orlando, have created a hashtag “Stop the Stickers," which is circulating on social media. They also planned a peaceful protest at Tuesday night's meeting of the Seminole County School Board.
Rep. Carlos G. Smith, a Democrat who is the state's first LGBTQ Latino legislator, said in a tweet that the “censorship is a direct result of the law these students were protesting. #WeWillNotBeErased in this so-called ‘free state.' “
DeSantis frequently refers to the free state of Florida in his news conferences.
School district spokesman Michael Lawrence told the Sentinel that officials didn't want to give the impression that the walkout was a school-sponsored event. The yearbook does include a page highlighting the school's gay-straight alliance club, which met the district's policy and is not being covered by stickers.