A Florida Teacher Is Under Investigation After Showing Disney Movie In Class
Florida, you good?
A Florida teacher is under investigation by the state Department of Education after a school board member raised concerns over a Disney movie shown in her classroom.
At a Hernando County School Board meeting Tuesday, fifth-grade teacher Jenna Barbee spoke out against school board member Shannon Rodriguez, who reported her to the Florida Department of Education for showing her students the 2022 Disney movie, Strange World.
Strange World is the first Disney movie with an openly gay and out character.
Barbee — a teacher at Winding Waters K-8 in Brooksville, FL— said the Disney movie tied into her students’ Earth science lesson, and that the film did not contain any sexually inappropriate content.
“The word indoctrination is thrown around a lot right now, but it seems that those who are using it are using it as a defense tactic for their own fear-based beliefs without understanding the true meaning of the word,” Barbee said.
Florida has been making the rounds when it comes to anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation.
Due to the Parental Rights in Education Act, signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022, Florida educators are prohibited from teaching about gender and sexual identity. This act is more commonly known as the “Don't Say Gay” act by critics of the law.
Several Florida teachers have expressed confusion over the vague wording of the law for fear of losing their teaching licenses or facing criminal penalties if found in non-compliance. Rightfully so, because now it seems even showing a PG-Rated Disney film may get a teacher fired.
Hernando County's school district confirmed Barbee was being investigated for showing Strange World after a parent complained to the principal about the movie not being appropriate for students.
“Yesterday, the Disney movie ‘Strange World’ was shown in your child’s classroom,” the school district said in a statement to parents. “While not the main plot of the movie, parts of the story involves a male character having and expressing feelings for another male character. In the future, this movie will not be shown. The school administration and the district’s Professional Standards Dept is currently reviewing the matter to see if further corrective action is required.”
Barbee told her side of the story in a now-viral TikTok video. She also got ahead of the attacks about her seven-year-old expunged record on a fraud charge, acknowledging she has made mistakes in the past but showing a Disney movie is not one of them.
Barbee also confirmed that every student in her class had a signed parent permission slip that said PG movies were allowed. Parents were even able to request their children not be exposed to certain content if that’s what they wanted.
"I'm a first-year teacher. I've had to learn so much this year," she told the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida. "I work with teachers who have taught for 20 years, 30 years, tell me every day it never used to be like this.”
"Times have changed so much and they are so micromanaged, they're not allowed to teach anymore,” she continued. “They're basically a caregiver who has to teach the standards. Teachers stay for the children, but because of the laws and the fear of being let go for saying one wrong thing, they can't connect to their students."
At the school board meeting, Rodriguez doubled down on her complaint saying that Barbee broke school policy because she did not get the specific movie approved by the school.
"It is not a teacher's job to impose their beliefs upon a child: religious, sexual orientation, gender identity, any of the above," Rodriguez said. "But allowing movies such as this, assist teachers in opening a door, and please hear me, they assist teachers in opening the door for conversations that have no place in our classrooms."
This is not Rodriguez’s first pointed attacked on the LGBTQIA+ community. In her short tenure, she has argued there is “smut” and “porn"“on schools' library shelves and has asked for books to be removed, according to Suncoast News.
The truly sad thing is that Rodriguez is not alone in this thinking. She has millions of people (including the Florida governor) backing her up. The tension in Florida has gotten so thick that some people are choosing to leave the state all together.
Actor Gabrielle Union and former NBA star Dwyane Wade recently moved from Miami to Los Angeles, explaining that Florida was simply too unsafe for their trans teenaged daughter, 15-year-old Zaya Wade.
“I love Miami,” Wade told Varitety. “Miami has done so much for me. Florida has done so much for me. … But the last couple years, the laws, the politics have really become this big conversation. This unsafe conversation. And it’s unsafe for my daughter, it’s unsafe for all the young kids, the youth and the adults and the [elderly] in the trans community. So for us, as much as I love that city and as much as I’m always going to be a part of it … for the safety of my family, that’s what it was for me. I couldn’t move back.”
“Obviously, the work don’t stop,” he went on. “For all the kids in south Florida: We will always continue to speak out, to speak up. We continue to stand with this community because this community is for us, is with us. It is our community because of our daughter, Zaya Wade.”
On top of all of this, Florida’s conservative government has already been sparring with Disney after Disney publicly spike out over the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation — and is in the middle of trying to take power away from the company that has brought so much tourism to the state for decades.
Florida is not the only far-right run state to be concerned about. At least 417 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country since the start of the year — a new record, according to American Civil Liberties Union data as of April 3. That’s already more than twice the number of such bills introduced all of last year.
So far this year, 24 of the 417 bills that restrict LGBTQ rights in the United States have passed in 11 states including Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and South Dakota.