A Florida School Is Holding Back Yearbooks Because Of Student Protest Photos

By Rick Gonzales | 2 weeks ago

yearbook

Students at Lyman High School in central Florida have been told they will not be receiving their yearbooks until certain “alterations” can be made. The “alterations” include covering up images, as well as their descriptions, of students holding a “love is love” sign and rainbow flags while protesting the state’s Parental Rights in Education Bill, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. This bill was recently signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis.

Seminole County Public Schools wanted to be clear on the fact that they were not opposing the fact that the students in the images were protesting the law. They were, in fact, all in favor of the walkout. But, according to the school district, the images and descriptions in the yearbook of the student walkout in March should not have been there in the first place.

Michael Hunter, Lyman High School’s principal, said that those images should have been “caught earlier in the review process.” Because it wasn’t, the school district will take unusual measures to make sure the images and descriptions fall within school policy. Instead of reprinting the entire batch of 600 yearbooks, the school will go through the process of covering up the images with stickers.

“Rather than reprinting the yearbook at substantial cost and delay, we have elected to cover that material that is out of compliance with board policy so that yearbooks can be distributed as soon as possible,” Hunter said in his statement via ABC News. To clarify the school and the district’s stance, Seminole County Public Schools spokesperson Mark Lawrence reiterated that the district didn’t have an issue with the protest, but with how the yearbook presented the material in question. The district felt that if they allowed the images to be seen in their entirety, it would look like the school was endorsing the protest, which then would be a violation of school board policy.

“The issue at hand here is not the photos or the topic for which the students were protesting,” Lawrence explained. “If these items were caught earlier prior to print, some simple editing/tweaking likely could’ve occurred to make that section in compliance prior to print.” As to what type of yearbook editing would have been necessary, Lawrence indicated that “specifically making it clear that this particular event was a ‘student’-led event that was not sponsored, endorsed, or promoted by the district or school would’ve solved the issue.”

yearbook

Lawrence wanted to point out again that it wasn’t the student protest that was at issue. He said that the Lyman High School yearbook dedicates a separate page to the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance Club. He said that elsewhere in the yearbook it shows school students at a pride march proudly waving rainbow flags. But he claims that those images fall within the school board’s policy.

When coming up with solutions to get the yearbooks into the hands of waiting students, school officials came up with the sticker solution. It was the least costly and one that wouldn’t delay getting yearbooks to the students before seniors graduated and summer break ensued. Danielle Pomeranz is the yearbook’s faculty advisor and before looking into the sticker solution, she looked at reprinting the whole bundle. It would have cost the school and district $45,000 to make that happen.

Obviously, some of the students were not happy with the school policy. “This really shouldn’t be happening because all we did as journalists was document what was happening at our school on our campus,” said Skye Tiedemann to the Orlando Sentinel. She is one of the yearbook’s editors-in-chief. “To have that covered up isn’t right. … This is censorship.”

Rep. Carlos G. Smith is a Democrat and the Sunshine State’s first LGBTQIA2S+ Latino legislator and he tweeted out after the pulling of the yearbook, “This censorship is a direct result of the law these students were protesting. #WeWillNotBeErased in this so-called ‘free state.'” The law he is referring to is the one DeSantis recently signed that outlawed any form of classroom discussion on gender identity or sexual orientation in grades K through 3.

Another Democrat, State Rep. Anna Eskamani from the Orlando area put pen to paper and wrote a letter to the school board members expressing her disappointment in their decision. “Students were empowered to craft a yearbook that reflects their lived experience of the academic year and did so with professionalism — sharing a piece of history on Lyman’s campus, one that should be reflected upon,” Eskamani wrote. “Not censored.”Students at the school have decided to speak up. They have created the hashtag, “#stopthestickers,” which is making its rounds across social media. They have also planned a peaceful protest that will accompany the upcoming school board meeting.