More than 40 students of Atlantic Community High School in Delray Beach staged a walk-out against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill on Thursday, March 10, with rainbow flags and LGBTQ-affirming signs in hand.
The protest, organized by sophomore Aliya Barbancourt, was a direct response to the Florida Senate’s passing of the Parental Rights in Education bill two days prior. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill, as dubbed by critics, intends to ban teachers of grades K–3 from instructing students on topics of sexual orientation and gender identity. It needs only the signature of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to be signed into law.
“It’s dehumanizing. We’re not animals. We deserve to have rights. We deserve to be talked about,” Barbancourt told WPTV-TV.
The group of students and supporters who joined on the way to the nearby park chanted statements including, “We say gay,” and “Gay is not a bad word.” The many signs on display, as seen in The Palm Beach Post, echoed a similar sentiment with messages including, “We are human too,” “Black queer youth matter” and “Stop silencing queer voices.”
Barbancourt also told WPTV-TV that the school principal, Sandra Edwards, followed the crowd on a golf cart and did not force students to return to class. As of press time, there have been no reported repercussions doled out to Barbancourt or other students involved in the walk-out, which can not be said for the organizer of a larger walk-out that took place at Flagler Palm Coast High School one week prior on March 3.
Junior Jack Petocz was allegedly suspended indefinitely for his part in organizing a protest that saw more than 500 students from at least 20 schools walk out of class as an act of opposition to “Don’t Say Gay.” After a petition on change.org went viral, garnering over 7,000 signatures, Petocz was permitted to return to school without any marks on his permanent record, reports First Coast News.