Florida high school won’t give out yearbooks until ‘Don’t Say Gay’ protest photos covered
A Florida school district has delayed the distribution of a high school’s yearbooks, saying that photos from a protest of the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law must be covered before the books can be given out.
The photos, which occupy about two pages of the class of 2022 Lyman High School yearbook, show students holding LGBTQ pride flags and signs at an event held to protest the Parental Rights in Education law — commonly referred to as “Don’t Say Gay” — which prohibits public elementary school teachers from instructing about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Officials with Seminole County Public Schools, which oversees Lyman High School, say the photos don’t comply with school board policy because the event was not sponsored or endorsed by the school. Lyman High School is located in Longwood, Florida, about 15 miles north of Orlando.
Students in the school’s yearbook club say the administration is silencing students and censoring their expression.
“We can’t cover up something that means so much to so many people,” said Ella Snyder, co-editor-in-chief of the yearbook. “It just doesn’t seem right to cover it up.”
Lyman High School Principal Michael Hunter wrote in an email to families on Monday, May 9, that the yearbook’s distribution would be delayed to ensure that it met school policy, “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 wrote. “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.”
Students have rallied against the administration’s requirement, creating the hashtag #StopTheSticker, in reference to the stickers administrators have proposed placing over the yearbook photos.
Skye Tiedemann, co-editor-in-chief of the yearbook, said students planned to protest at a Seminole County Public School Board meeting on the evening of May 10.
“We’re covering up something that means so much to people, not only at Lyman, but across the country and the entire world,” she said. “People take this really, really seriously, and to cover it up, it’s so sad.”
Madi Koesler, a Lyman High School alum who took the photos in question, called the administration’s actions “heartbreaking.”
“What the students in those pictures are fighting for is for their voices to be heard,” she said. “Instead of uplifting students, (administrators) are censoring them and cutting them down.”
Tiedemann said that, for her, the photos of the protest are representative of Lyman High School’s motto: “Historic, Diverse, Inclusive.”
“That’s exactly what these pictures display,” she said.