Florida teacher investigated for showing Disney movie with gay main character

Jenna Barbee Strange World

A teacher in Florida is being investigated by the state for ‘indoctrination’ after showing a Disney film which features a prominent gay character. 

The investigation comes after fifth grade teacher Jenna Barbee showed her class Disney’s 2022 animated movie Strange World as a “brain break”, following a morning of standardised testing. 

The film features Ethan, an openly gay character, and a romantic plot between Ethan and his crush, Diazo.

On TikTok, the teacher said she chose to show the film because it fit in with the class’s curriculum, as they are currently learning about ecosystems. The LGBTQ+ element was not the reason she put the movie on, but described it as “harmless”. 

Barbee claims she was reported to the state by a school board member, who she says is on a “rampage” against any form of representation in schools and her daughter was in the classroom watching Strange World. 

A tweet by Barbee’s friend, Carl Zee, shows a letter from the Florida Department for Education which states the teacher is being investigated for “inappropriate conduct”. 

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“If you have evidentiary witnesses or documents pertinent to the case, send them to this office no later than two weeks from receipt of this letter,” the letter states.

“[The students] didn’t even know this was a big deal until the board member and the state made it a big deal. 

“They’re using it against me saying they’re ‘protecting the children’ and it’s for their safety. But what is this actually showing them?” Barbee questioned in the video. 

She said the investigation is more “traumatising” for the youngsters than the film was in the fist place. 

“Their teachers should have movies to help them connect to our curriculum and learn some valuable life lessons. 

“But the minor representations, that have nothing to do with the movie, are such a big deal that now admin in is in their room, pulling their teacher out, calling the students one by one down to the office to interrogate them in the middle of my lessons,” she said. 

The teacher added that a number of her students had told her they are members of the LGBTQ+ community, prior to the film being shown.

Barbee said: “For those of you who are throwing hate my way without knowing me or my true intentions, you may learn a thing or two from that movie. 

“Follow your heart, find the compassion, find the kindness. It’s the key to a better positive life.”

Many people in response to Babee’s video and the letter shared on Twitter have called on Disney to support the teacher, by offering her financial or legal assistance.

The investigation comes as Florida governor Ron DeSantis seeks to crack down on all things LGBTQ+, amid an ongoing war with Disney stemming from his controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.

The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law, which bans classroom discussions of gender and sexuality, has been expanded multiple times and now covers all grades in Florida

Activists have pointed out that the vile law is so vague. anything could be considered breaching legislation, meaning teachers may choose to censor themselves and effectively put themselves in the closet so they do not break the law.  

DeSantis appears to be gearing up for a 2024 presidential run, with laws he has brought in to limit abortion, ban books, enable medical discrimination and ban discussions of racial issues attempting to appeal to GOP voters.