April 24, 2024

A Florida teacher says she is facing a state investigation after she played students a Disney film featuring a gay character.

Jenna Barbee said she was accused of “indoctrination” after showing the movie Strange World.

Hernando County School District confirmed to US media that a teacher is being investigated after a parent complained.

“[I] never would indoctrinate anyone to follow my beliefs,” Ms Barbee said.

“I will, however, always be a safe person to come to that spreads the message of kindness, positivity and compassion for everyone,” she added in a six-minute TikTok video.

The BBC has reached out to Ms Barbee, the school district and the Florida Department of Education for comment.

The incident comes a year after Florida’s Republican Governor signed the Parental Rights in Education Act – which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The measure initially banned education about sexual orientation and gender identity for pupils aged nine and under, and was recently expanded to cover all grades.

Mr DeSantis has waged his own battle against Disney, which criticised the policy.

Media caption,

Watch: DeSantis v Disney fight explained in 90 seconds

Ms Barbee, a teacher at Winding Waters K-8 school, said she chose to show the animated sci-fi movie because it related to the class curriculum of earth science and ecosystems. She said she received signed permission slips from parents to watch a PG-rated film, which she said she played after students finished a standardised test.

Strange World, released in 2022, includes Disney’s first-ever openly gay character named Ethan Clade, who has a crush on another male character and is voiced by gay comic Jaboukie Young-White.

In a message from the school district to parents, seen by CNN, a spokesperson said the district was “reviewing the matter to see if further corrective action is required”, noting that “while not the main plot of the movie, parts of the story involve a male character having and expressing feelings for another male character”.

It added that it would not play the movie in the future.

Ms Barbee claimed an investigator with the department of education was pulling students out of class to ask them about it.

“Do you know the trauma that that is going to cause to some of my students?” Ms Barbee said in her TikTok video.

During a school board meeting on 9 May, school board member Shannon Rodriguez said she was the parent who complained to the department of education, according to US media outlets.

“It is not a teacher’s job to impose their beliefs upon a child,” Ms Rodriguez said during the meeting.

Ms Barbee, meanwhile, claimed people were accusing her of indoctrination as a “defence tactic for their own fear-based beliefs”.

“A school board member, an elected official of power, who was supposed to be nonpartisan, is allowed to present to the public that she is Christian and that God appointed her to the board,” Ms Barbee said, according to CNN. “And yet it is indoctrinated that I showed a Disney movie. I’m a first-year teacher.”

The probe comes a month after entertainment giant Disney sued Governor DeSantis in federal court, alleging he was punishing the company for exercising its freedom of expression rights in criticising the policy. An oversight board aligned with Mr DeSantis has filed a countersuit against Disney.

 

 

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