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Fla. class president told he couldn’t speak about being gay uses hair metaphor

Published: May. 23, 2022 at 6:36 AM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - A Florida senior class president took the stand at his graduation and delivered his speech. He had been warned not to speak about his experience as a gay student, but he found a workaround by using his hair as a metaphor, WWSB reports.

Zander Moricz, the senior class president of Pine View School for the Gifted, wanted to use his graduation speech Sunday to speak about his experience as a gay student or criticize Florida House Bill 1557, called “Parental Rights in Education” but colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

However, Moricz had been warned that his microphone would be cut off if he made any mention or reference to the law that goes into effect in July or any reference to his activist efforts on LGBTQ rights. He organized a student walkout in March against the then-pending legislation and a similar protest in downtown Sarasota.

Moricz said the principal told him such comments would be “polarizing and not school appropriate.”

“I’m told that my human rights are controversial and, therefore, not appropriate for school setting. I’m the class president, and my human rights are not appropriate for my speech at my school graduation,” Moricz said.

So, Moricz decided to deliver his speech in a creative way instead.

He spoke about his curly hair. His curly hair is a part of him, so, he learned to embrace it.

“I used to hate my curls. I spent mornings and nights embarrassed of them, trying desperately to straighten this part of who I am, but the daily damage of trying to fix myself became too much to endure,” Moricz said.

Moricz found a way to speak about his identity and the legislation. He had earlier said he would not compromise on his principles but would adhere to the guidelines given to him by the school.

The district provided a statement saying all student speeches are reviewed in advance.

“Students are reminded that a graduation should not be a platform for personal political statements, especially those likely to disrupt the ceremony. Should a student vary from this expectation during the graduation, it may be necessary to take appropriate action,” read the statement in part.

The “Parental Rights in Education” bill that Moricz has actively protested against states: “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

The new law also affects how mental health services, such as students’ meetings with school counselors, are delivered. Parents would have to be notified of meetings in many cases, and parents would have the right to refuse to allow their children to fill out wellness surveys.

It would also make it easier for parents to sue the school district if they feel parental rights have been violated.

Critics say the law’s language is vague and could have far-reaching implications for students, potentially even those who have no connection to LGBTQ issues.

Moricz is heading to Harvard this fall to study government.

You can listen to WWSB′s episode of “The Lead” with Moricz right here.

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