Florida student who organized ‘Don’t Say Gay’ protest suspended

A Florida student has been suspended from his high school after leading a mass protest against the ‘don’t say gay’ bill.

Jack Petocz, who attends Flagler Palm Coast High School, has promoted a statewide walkout against parental rights in education legislation that would ban discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity. gender in some classes in Florida schools.

After leading the strike at his own school on Thursday, Petocz handed out about 200 pride flags for a rally. The teenager said The Daytona Beach Newspaper that he had been advised not to distribute the flags by the school principal, Greg Schwartz.

In a statement posted on social media, Petocz said he wanted to protest “homophobic and discriminatory legislation” at the rally, which had been approved by the school.

“More than 500 students from my school joined thousands of other affected young people across the state to demonstrate their constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech, freedom of speech, and freedom to protest,” Petocz wrote.

“Students waved pride flags and united, showing politicians peddling bigotry that we will not be silenced.”

Petocz added that even though the school administration allowed the protest, “their demeanor and tone changed dramatically” as the rally progressed.

He said administrators began confiscating student pride flags and attempted to remove them from campus. “I encouraged my classmates not to give in to the school’s unconstitutional seizure of our pride flags, but rather to continue to peacefully demonstrate our pride,” he wrote.

After the rally, he was told he had been suspended indefinitely. He was escorted off campus after gathering his belongings.

“I’m proud of who I am and I’m proud of everyone protesting these regressive bills,” Petocz said. “We need to let our politicians know that no matter how hard they try, they cannot suppress our identities or silence our voices.”

Flagler County School District spokesman Jason Wheeler told the News-Journal that the district had allowed students out for 15 minutes, but the rally had lasted longer than expected.

However, some students reportedly complained that staff tried to end the rally after just seven minutes

Students were also told not to wave flags in order “to avoid undue security concerns and disruptions on campus.”

Wheeler added, “School administration has spoken with the event organizer several times about expectations and parameters so that students can participate in a peaceful and safe protest.”

A change.org petition calling for Petocz’s suspension to be lifted has garnered more than 2,800 signatures.

Newsweek contacted Principal Schwartz for comment.

The ‘don’t say gay’ bill – which aims to give parents more say in raising their children, according to its sponsors – has been approved by the Florida House of Representatives and is backed by Governor Ron DeSantis .

The legislation, however, has faced criticism inside and outside the state, with President Joe Biden among those who opposed it.

“I want every member of the LGBTQI+ community, especially children who will be impacted by this hateful bill, to know that you are loved and accepted for who you are,” Biden tweeted. “I support you and my administration will continue to fight for the protections and security you deserve.”

A gay pride flag is waved by fans during the MLS game between Atlanta United and Orlando City at Orlando City Stadium on July 21, 2017. Florida students use pride flags during protests against the ‘don’t don’t say gay” of the state.
Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images


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