500 Students Walk Out of Florida School in Protest Against “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

On Monday, hundreds marched out at an Orange County high school to protest a bill that would restrict discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools across the state.

More than 500 students participated in a protestWinter Park High School has been organized to resist legislation colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill Currently, that issue is being discussed in the state Senate. The legislation would prohibit discussion of LGBTQ issuesPrimary school classrooms severely limit what can be discussed with older grades. This could have devastating repercussions that go beyond lesson plans.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), has indicated that he will sign it into law if it reaches him.

Students at Winter Park High School shouted slogans in support of their LGBTQ peers, chanting “We say Gay” to demonstrate their opposition to the bill. Students who took part in the demonstration held signs supporting transgender students.

Will Larkins, a junior at high school, was one of the students who organized the protest. He said that the students would continue to walk out if the legislation was passed or moved forward.

“We wanted to show our government that this isn’t going to stop,” Larkins said to CNN. “There were walkouts all last week. This will continue. If this passes, there will be protests everywhere.”

A student participated in a separate walkout that took place last week at Flagler Palm Coast High School. It took place in Palm Coast, Florida. says that he was suspended for handing out Pride flags to participants.

Jack Petocz, a junior who helped organize the walkout against the anti-LGBTQ bill, said that the principal of the school told him ahead of the event that he wasn’t allowed to hand out rainbow flags.

The school’s principal questioned “the intentions of our protest, asking if pride flags were relevant to opposition to the bill,” Petocz later explained. “I decided to move forward and handed the flags to other student organizers for distribution at the event.”

After the protest concluded, Petocz said that he was called into the principal’s office yet again, and suspended for being “disrespectful and openly advocating against staff.” The junior says that he plans to speak to his family’s lawyer about the events.

Experts predict that the “Don’t Say Gay” bill will have a detrimental effect on students if it is passed into law. “The likely outcome of the bill would be to deter teachers from addressing these issues and to chill open discussions and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students,” Ryan Thoreson, a researcher at Human Rights Campaign, In February.

It’s also possible that the bill could result in increased harassment of LGBTQ students, and less consequences for those who bully them; due to the bill’s vague language, students might feel as though they are unable to discuss their situation with teachers, and may be less willing to share that their LGBTQ status is the basis for their harassment