Thousands of Florida Students Walked Out Over Homophobic “Don’t Say Gay” Law
“Gen Z will not stand idly by as our rights are stripped from us.”
If Republicans thought they could bully kids into somehow not being queer, they just got a rude surprise.
After the Florida House of Representatives passed HB 1557, known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, on to the Senate last week, outrage from sources around the country was swift. The bill, which prevents teachers from discussing LGBTQ+ identities in schools and opens queer students to mistreatment by unaccepting parents, has been condemned by numerous LGBTQ+ organizations and the White House. But although conservatives expected opposition from gay and trans rights advocates, nothing could have prepared them for the response from the students who would be affected by the law.
On Thursday, thousands of teens across the state, from Tampa to Jacksonville, organized mass school walkouts in protest of “Don’t Say Gay,” delivering speeches via megaphone and making it clear that they wouldn’t take lawmakers’ homophobia and transphobia lying down.
In Tallahassee, some students marched on the Florida State Capitol building itself, holding rainbow flags and signs with slogans like “Say Gay” and “My Existence Will Not Be Taboo.”
“We as students need to stand up for each other,” said Dariel Cruz Rodriguez, a member of the Colonial High School student council in Orlando who helped organize his own school’s walkout, in a statement to The Advocate. “No matter our age, we are still a group of committed people who want to be heard.”
The walkouts were initially inspired by Jack Petocz, a student at Flagler Palm Coast High School, whose posts about organizing a walkout at his school went viral among his peers. Late on Thursday, Petocz confirmed via an Instagram postthat he had been suspended for distributing rainbow flags to other students during the walkout.
“We must let our politicians know that no matter how hard they try, they cannot suppress our identities or silence our voices,” Petocz wrote. “Gen Z will not stand idly by as our rights are stripped from us.”
Between the Florida walkouts and Texas students shutting down transphobia, it’s clear Petocz is right: young people are organized, passionate, and unwilling to let regressive ideas like “Don’t Say Gay” win. Stick it to the man, kids.