Girl told she can't give speech on LGBT rights; Seminole district reverses decision

Lawton Chiles Middle School teacher told girl to choose new topic for speech contest

Local 6 News at 5:30p
Local 6 News at 5:30p

OVIEDO, Fla. – An Oviedo parent says a teacher told her daughter she could not give a planned speech on gay rights, but now the school district has reversed that original decision.

11-year-old Tristen Bland was asked to complete an initial planning assignment for the Tropicana Speech Contest at Lawton Chiles Middle School. When she turned in her outline, which said her topic was LGBT equality, the teacher told her she needed to choose a new topic, says her mom, Christina Yaghoubi.

"Somebody's literally trying to censor my daughter," she said.

Yaghoubi says the teacher said the topic was out of bounds, because it could offend other students. Instead, the teacher suggested changing the topic to racial or gender equality.

When Local 6 asked about the decision, the school district seemed to change its mind, saying the speech could be given as planned. A spokesman explained the teacher was probably seeking permission about the topic's approval from the principal, but could not explain why the teacher initially said no.

The speech contest rules only have the prohibition, "...offensive material or language is not permitted.??" The contest co-sponsor Florida 4-H told Local 6 excluding a topic because it may be controversial is inconsistent with contest practices.

Parent Brandi Zrallack says she understands that some families might be uncomfortable discussing LGBT issues or prefer to have those conversations with their children at home, but she has not problem with it.

"God created all of the us and we are the way that we are for a reason and the kids need to be exposed to that. I think it's healthy," she said.

?Bland says she plans on giving the speech in April.

"Nobody should be afraid to be who they are?," said Bland.