Florida teacher explains why he quit over LGBTQ+ book bans: ‘Protect us or lose us’

During a Florida protest, a protestor holds up a sign reading "Support real education, not DeSantis indoctrination."

A Florida teacher has quit his job because of the rise in book bans and attempts to erase LGBTQ+ history in the state’s schools.

Brooksville educator Daniel Scott spoke to the Hernando County School District board during a chaotic meeting on 31 May at which he cited their “political bias” as the reason behind his departure.

“I’m leaving because I believe the board is more interested in removing Pride flags and banning literature than they are in protecting us educators,” Scott told the meeting.

“I don’t feel that I can adequately provide a safe environment for my students any more. I’m leaving because I refuse to work for an organisation that sees supporting kids for who they are as indoctrination.”

Scott wasn’t the only one to feel this way.

The meeting began on Tuesday (30 May) but was extended because of the number of people looking to speak against recent anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric.

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More 100 speakers across the two days shamed officials after the board gained national attention for opening an investigation into a fifth-grade teacher, Jenna Barbee, after she showed her class the Disney movie Strange World – a film with LGBTQ+ characters.

“I refuse to teach fabricated history that prioritises a nationalistic narrative before an accurate one,” Scott continued in his speech.

“The attempts to sanitise this profession to fit a political bias is what is causing my departure.

“Many of our district’s most talented professionals are leaving for similar reasons. I am not the first to leave, nor will I be the last. Support us, trust us, protect us… or lose us.”

At least 50 teachers are planning to resign from the county school system in response to the investigation against Barbee.

Many have cited the increasing hostility towards LGBTQ+ students as a reason for their decision, while others said political bias was becoming more prominent in school board decisions.

“I am not sure a recruiter is going to solve your problems,” Scott said.

Several teachers also aired concerns during their allocated three-minute speeches.

One of them, former maths teacher Alyssa Marano, told the school board: “No one is teaching your kids to be gay. Sometimes, they are just gay.

“I have maths to teach. I literally don’t have time to teach your kids to be gay.”

Florida High School student tells school board that LGBTQ+ students do exist

Elsewhere in the meeting, high school student Robert Kordon told the board that they need to accept “the responsibility” of representing all students in their decision-making.

The LGBTQ+ Nature Coast Technical pupil said that school was incredibly important to him but that the changes being enacted by the county system were damaging what it means to be a student.

“When taking this position, you accepted the responsibility to represent every single student fairly and justly,” Kordon said. “I do not feel you have done that.

“Instead of representing me and other LGBTQ+ students – because yes, we exist – you instead have alienated and made us feel as if our entire existence is an issue for you.

“My existence should not be an issue to you. But come next election season, my vote will be.”

Protestors condemning Ron DeSantis' LGBTQ+ tirade in Florida, with signs reading "fuck DeSantis" and "kill fascism."
Florida is becoming an increasingly hostile place for LGBTQ+ people. (Getty)

In response to that and several other speeches denouncing board members, school district superintendent John Stratton said that he was “disgusted” at hearing teachers dubbed “groomers” by anti-LGBTQ+ pundits.

“I don’t care what you defend that with. I will never buy into that. That’s ridiculous,” he said.

“I’ve been in this business 30 years, and that’s crazy. Keep in mind, you’re not a groomer because you accept everyone.

“We’re public education. Beliefs, non-beliefs, everything in between, they show up at our doorstep and they’re ours and we educate them and we love them.”

LGBTQ+ Florida students facing increasingly hostile environment

Much of the anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric that students face in Florida stems from Republican governor Ron DeSantis’ approval of laws discriminating against the queer community.

The presidential candidate has enacted several laws that include banning LGBTQ+ topics from classrooms, forcing school boards to misgender trans people, and which ban trans student from using the correct toilets.

The situation has become so dire that human rights charities have urged LGBTQ+ tourists to stay away from Florida or at least make safety preparations if they absolutely have to visit the state.

The Human Rights Campaign, along with Equality Florida, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and The League of United Latin American Citizens, updated travel advice in May that urged LGBTQ+ people to reconsider their trip.

The advice also recommends consulting an attorney before travelling to Florida “in order to assess the level of danger you may encounter in being searched, questioned, and/or arrested”.