A Florida public school teacher said she is under investigation by the state for showing an animated Disney movie to her fifth grade students which features a biracial and gay character.
Jenna Barbee, a first-year teacher at Winding Water K-8 school in Hernando County, said she played the 2022 Disney film “Strange World” to a class after a day of standardized testing. She said she had permission slips from all the parents, allowing the students to watch a movie rated PG.
The movie, which is about a group of kids who discover a hidden world of magical creatures, has a subplot involving a male character who has feelings for another male character.
Ms. Barbee said she showed the movie because it related to the curriculum for a lesson on the environment and diversity. She said she was not trying to indoctrinate anyone or promote her beliefs.
But a parent who is also a member of the Hernando County School District Board complained to the principal about the movie not being appropriate for students, according to Karen Jordan, spokesperson for Hernando County Schools.
The parent, who was not identified by name, said in a statement that “as a leader in this community, I’m not going to stand by and allow this minority to infiltrate our schools … God did put me here.”
The complaint is part of Florida’s controversial legislation, signed last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis, banning certain instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom. The law has been criticized by LGBTQ advocates and some corporations, including Disney, as discriminatory and harmful.
Ms. Barbee said she is now under investigation by the Florida Department of Education for the incident, with an official coming to question each of her students individually. She said she fears losing her job or her teaching license.
“This is the public education system, where students from all backgrounds, cultures and religions are welcomed and should be celebrated and represented,” Ms. Barbee said in a TikTok video. “I will however always be a safe person to come to that spreads the message of kindness, positivity and compassion for everyone.”
The school district said in an announcement to parents that the movie will not be shown again and that it is reviewing the matter to see if further corrective action is required.
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