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"Using my megaphone, I told students to hold onto their flags and not to allow them to silence us," said Flagler Palm Coast High School student Jack Petocz. (Photo: Twitter/Equality Florida)

Florida Students Stage Walkouts Over 'Don't Say Gay' Bill

"Thousands of students across the state are refusing to watch their classmates (or themselves!) be erased by the Legislature. They're demanding an end to #DontSayGay."

Jenna McGuire

Students from across Florida walked out of their classrooms on Thursday to show support for LGBTQ+ rights and voice their opposition to the widely condemned "Don't Say Gay" bill.

Coined the "Don't Say Gay" bill by critics, the Parental Rights in Education bill H.B. 1557 and its companion, S.B. 1834, would prohibit teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in primary grades or at any level "in a manner that is not age-appropriate," a term that remains undefined.

High school students from Tallahassee and St. Petersburg participated in the walkout:

Both bills have been advanced by the state's GOP-controlled Senate Education Committee and House Education and Employment Committee and are endorsed by far-right Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

In February, state Rep. Joe Harding (R-22) also filed an amendment to H.B. 1557 that would require schools to out LGBTQ+ students to their parents or guardians even if educators believe the disclosure will result in "abuse, abandonment, or neglect."

According to The Daytona Beach News-Journal, more than 20 schools participated in the walkout, including Flagler Palm Coast High School student Jack Petocz—a lead organizer in mobilizing students across the state to participate in the walkout.

Petocz was reportedly suspended from school following the walkout. He told The Daytona Beach News-Journal that "following the protest, I was called into the principal's office, told I was disrespectful and openly advocating against staff."

Petocz said he was suspended for purchasing and distributing pride flags to students and told reporters that administrators blocked other students from coming into the stadium while attempting to confiscate their flags.

"I pushed back on this, as I wasn't going to allow staff to minimize our reach and message," Petocz said. "Using my megaphone, I told students to hold onto their flags and not to allow them to silence us."

After his suspension, Petocz posted a statement on Twitter, saying, "Gen-Z will not stand idly by as our rights are stripped from us."

Petocz's full statement below:

LGBTQ+ rights group Equality Florida voiced their support for the student protesters tweeting: "Thousands of students across the state are refusing to watch their classmates (or themselves!) be erased by the Legislature. They're demanding an end to #DontSayGay."

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