Gay hiking

Florida class president said he can’t talk about being gay uses hair metaphor

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) – A Florida senior class president spoke at his graduation and delivered his speech. He had been warned not to talk about his experience as a gay student, but found a workaround by using his hair as a metaphor, reports WWSB.

Zander Moricz, the senior class president of Pine View School for the Gifted, wanted to use his Sunday graduation speech to talk about his experience as a gay student or criticize Florida House Bill 1557, called “Parental Rights in Education” but colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill.

However, Moricz had been warned that his microphone would be muted if he made any mention or reference to the law that comes into effect in July or any reference to his LGBTQ rights activism efforts. He organized a student strike in March against then-pending legislation and a similar protest in downtown Sarasota.

Moricz said the principal told him such comments would be “polarizing and inappropriate for the school.”

“I am told that my human rights are controversial and therefore not suitable for the school setting. I am the class president and my human rights are not appropriate for my speech at my school’s graduation, Moricz said.

So, Moricz decided to deliver his speech creatively instead.

He talked about his curly hair. His curly hair is part of him, so he learned to embrace it.

“Before, I hated my curls. I spent mornings and nights embarrassed by them, desperately trying to straighten out this part of who I am, but the daily damage of trying to fix myself became too much to bear,” Moricz said.

Moricz found a way to talk about his identity and the legislation. He had previously said that he would not compromise on his principles but that he would respect the guidelines given to him by the school.

The district provided a statement that all student speeches are screened in advance.

“Students are reminded that a graduation ceremony should not be a platform for personal political statements, especially those that may disrupt the ceremony. If a student deviates from this expectation upon graduation, appropriate action may need to be taken,” the statement read in part.

The “Parental Rights in Education” bill that Moricz has actively protested states: “Classroom teaching by school personnel or third parties about sexual orientation or gender identity may not take place in kindergarten through 3rd grade or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.

The new law also affects how mental health services, such as student meetings with school counsellors, are provided. Parents would need to be notified of meetings in many cases, and parents would have the right to refuse to allow their children to complete wellness surveys.

It would also make it easier for parents to sue the school district if they believe parental rights have been violated.

Critics say the law’s language is vague and could have profound implications for students, potentially even those unconnected to LGBTQ issues.

Moricz is heading to Harvard this fall to study government.

You can listen to WWSB’s episode of “The Lead” with Moricz here.

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