SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – The yearbook controversy has come to an end.
Lyman High School students will receive a complete yearbook — without covered photos and captions.
The Seminole County Public Schools board voted unanimously Tuesday night to put disclaimer stickers in the yearbook instead of covering three photos from a student-led walkout with stickers.
Students were upset after school administrators announced they would cover up the photos, which display a “Don’t Say Gay” student-led walkout in March criticizing the state’s Parental Rights in Education law.
Lyman High School principal Michael Hunter said Monday that the yearbook would be delayed in order to achieve this, adding that it was required in order to fit in with school board policies.
Following the announcement, yearbook students decided to peacefully protest Tuesday’s SCPS board meeting.
The board’s decision at the meeting was made after more than 30 students and supporters approached the podium, asking board members to leave the photos uncovered.
“I know the yearbook staff put their sweat and tears into creating this yearbook,” Lyman High School yearbook student Maya Gluck said.
The students said by covering the photos, they were ultimately silencing the LGBTQ+ community.
“There’s other solutions than covering this up,” Lyman High School yearbook editor Sara Ward said.
Before the vote, SCPS Superintendent Serita Beamon clarified why the decision was made in the first place.
“The Lyman High School yearbook section that is at issue did not make it clear that the student protest was in fact student-led, not supported or endorsed by the schools or the district. Instead, it left the opposite impression,” Beamon said.
She said the administration was not trying to target or silence anyone.
As Beamon leaned toward abiding by current guidelines, students said they thought they were going to lose the fight, until the board chairman, Amy Pennock, turned the conversation around.
“I will personally write the check to cover different stickers that don’t cover this section,” Pennock said.
Her statement received immediate applause from the crowd.
Other members like Vice Chair Abby Sanchez joined in.
“These are our children. We need to do what’s best for them,” Sanchez said.
Students said they now realize how powerful their voices are.
“I’m so validated, like, I feel so good as a citizen, as a student, as a yearbook member — I feel so good right now,” yearbook member Olivia Booth said.
Booth’s peer, Skye Tiedemann, said there is a big message here.
“Don’t be afraid to speak up, because students, they do have a chance to change things,” Tiedemann said.
School staff said they are going to work on getting new disclaimer stickers printed.
The language of the sticker still needs to be worked out, and once it is approved it will take up to 1 to 2 weeks to get the yearbooks distributed.
One student said the delay will be worth it.