TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – State legislators and community leaders say there will be classroom walkouts and rallies taking place across Florida on Friday in protest of the state’s education policies.
The demonstration day dubbed as “Walkout 2 Learn” is a response to Republican-led legislation that organizers say “censor” education, including instruction regarding gender, sexuality and race.
News 6 spoke to students in Orange County who say there are planned walkouts Friday. Will Larkins, a senior at Winter Park High School, says they know of other schools that will participate.
“I have definitely heard that there are a few other schools planning walkouts,” said Larkins.
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Larkins, who is non-binary, has been a very vocal member of the LGBTQ+ community in Orange County Public Schools. Just last week, they participated in a demonstration outside of a school board meeting following the cancellation of a “Drag and Donuts” event planned at Boone High School.
“It’s been clear that our government wants to make it clear that we can’t learn accurate history of marginalized groups in Florida,” said Larkins.
The planned protests Friday follow Florida’s Board of Education-approved expansion of the “Parental Rights in Education” Law. The rule change bans lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity from grades four through 12. The state originally banned such lessons from kindergarten through third grade, and state officials said the bill was only focused on those grades.
“When I testified in opposition of this bill, the legislators said, ‘This is not about you.’ Now, here we are and it’s been expanded to 12th grade,” said Larkins.
Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. insisted the action taken by the board Wednesday clarifies confusion around the existing law.
“This is not banning Supreme Court cases from being covered. This department, this board, does not ban any books,” said Diaz Jr.
Orange County School Board member Alicia Farrant spoke out to support it.
“Many, many parents here in Orange County and throughout our nation have been concerned that our public schools are teaching gender ideologies. Every family is different,” said Farrant.
Critics say it sends the wrong message to our students, along with other legislation they view as censorship to education. Anita Carson with Equality Florida says students are upset.
“They don’t want what they can learn in their schools to be limited to small, specific things,” said Carson.
Equality Florida shared messaging regarding the planned protests during and after school Friday. According to Walkout 2 Learn, there are demonstrations planned in at least four cities in Florida, including Orlando.
“This year I believe it’s just more amplified, because they weren’t heard last year. It continued, and it’s gotten worse. So, I believe what we’re seeing this year is more and more people are willing to stand up,” said Carson. “The goal during those walkouts is for students to walk out and learn something that is currently banned in Florida.”
Larkins says students who participate will have the ability to participate in a banned history class that has been put together by event organizers and a coalition of professors who will teach LGBT history and AP African American studies.
News 6 reached out to Orange County Public Schools to see if they were aware of any planned protests and if they planned to send any communication to staff, students and families.
A spokesperson for the district sent the following response via email: “I have checked with the chief of high schools and while they are monitoring, there are no reports of any planned protests at any of our campuses.”
Seminole County Public Schools also says it has not sent any messages regarding possible protests as of Thursday afternoon.
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