Zander Moricz, a high school senior who is the class president of Pine View School in Osprey, Florida says the school principal threatened to cut his mic if he brought up his LGBTQ+ activism in his graduation speech.
Moricz, who is the first out LGBTQ+ student in his school's history to hold the title of class president, says he knew when he was called into the principal's office "this wasn’t a typical meeting.”
According to Moricz, Stephen Covert, the school's principal, "said that he just ‘wanted families to have a good day’ and that if I was to discuss who I am and the fight to be who I am, that would ‘sour the celebration'."
The "dehumanizing" experience caught nationwide attention after Moricz talked about it on his Twitter account.
Moricz said the threat "is not the first that I have received from [the] administration about my queer rights."
He recalled the administration tore posters from the wall of the school after he organized a "Say Gay Walkout" in protest of Florida's controversial "Don't Say Gay" law.
Florida’s Republican-sponsored Parental Rights in Education bill, or H.B. 1557, was recently signed into law by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. The law, colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, aims to “reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children in a specified manner.”
The law wants to prohibit “a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a specified manner” and authorizes parents to “bring an action against a school district to obtain a declaratory judgment that a school district procedure or practice violates certain provisions of law.”
However school curriculums, books, class plays, discussions, etc... are filled with heterosexual and cisgender references from pre-K up. The law would gut school content if it targeted all sexualities or gender identities, making it clear the law was aimed at everyone outside the heterosexual, cisgender bubble.
Moricz said the walkout happened anyway and he will not cave to the administration's attempt to silence him.
He announced that the Social Equity and Education Initiative (SEE), which launched a petition titled #LetZanderSpeak, has secured 10,000 Say Gay Stickers thjat we're prepared to ship to high school seniors across Florida.
He urged his fellow students to wear them on their gowns as they "cross the graduation stage," a form of protest deisgned to remind underclassmen "that we're done with high school, not the fight."
He also included a link to a form where followers could order their stickers and join the movement.
Many have praised Moricz for speaking out.
Sarasota County Schools confirmed that the meeting between Moricz and Covert took place, noting that graduation speeches are typically reviewed to ensure they are “appropriate to the tone of the ceremony.”
The district added:
“Out of respect for all those attending the graduation, students are reminded that a graduation should not be a platform for personal political statements, especially those likely to disrupt the ceremony."
“Should a student vary from this expectation during the graduation, it may be necessary to take appropriate action.”
Moricz did tell reporters that he and Covert had previously had a cordial relationship, saying that Covert’s demand “did not reflect his previous actions” in their four years of working together. Moricz said he believes Covert's request was an effort to comply with the "Don't Say Gay" law.