Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-09-06



Guest essay by Florida mom Nicole Pejovich: What's Happening to Florida's Public Schools?
Related video below

This article shared 4646 times since Mon Jun 19, 2023
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

A queer Florida parent answers questions about recent laws, how Floridians are coping, and how you can help

Books pulled from school library shelves by the dozens.

All evidence of inclusivity stripped from classrooms.

The politically motivated takeover of a beloved liberal arts college.

What sounds like the plot of a dystopian novel or a page out of a WWII history book is a frightening reality for Floridians since Gov. Ron Desantis and fellow conservative lawmakers enacted their oppressive agenda.

First, they pushed to eradicate African American studies and LGBTQ awareness in public schools. Then, they came for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion and Gender Studies in colleges. Now, they are outright attacking the transgender community and migrant workers.

It's clear that the "War on Woke" is actually a campaign against marginalized populations and academic freedoms. With policy as their weapon and hatred as their fuel, conservatives have made Florida a battleground for human rights.

While some people are, understandably, fleeing the state in search of more accepting communities, many are deliberately staying put. And many more don't have the means to relocate.

Floridians are frightened but determined to fight for their freedom to thrive in this state.

What is it really like for Floridians?

In the last local election cycle, both Brevard and Sarasota counties witnessed school board takeovers by Desantis-backed, ultra-conservative candidates. New leadership has led to drastic changes including book bans, the removal of social-emotional learning, attempted shady contractor deals [ ], and the politically motivated firing of superintendents.

"It's a politically theatrical cash grab at the cost of human liberty and our children's futures," laments Sarasota parent Justin Mikula, who recently attended a rally in support of New College. Mikula, like many concerned parents, is planning to move his family to a more progressive state within the next few years.

For one parent, reality set in when her children missed their first book fair of the year because the materials available didn't have time to pass through the media specialist for approval. They finally got their book fair near the end of the school year, but the selection was limited to district-approved books and certainly didn't include any of the titles on the long list of Florida's banned books [ ].

The book bans are not relegated to school districts under right-wing rule. Thanks to the recent legislative session, any parent who takes issue with any educational material in a public school can petition to have it reviewed by newly selected district officials for potential restriction or removal from shelves altogether.

A Miami district recently banned Amanda Gorman's poem. You may recognize it as the one she read at President Biden's inauguration. Florida currently holds an unfortunate title as one of the leading states for book bans.

Literature isn't the only target. Thanks to the expansion of the Parental Rights in Education bill, any discussions or educational material on LGBTQ or race-based topics are banned from all public school classrooms. Educators caught in violation of the new law will get slapped with a third-degree felony.

Hernando County 5th grade teacher, Jenna Barbee, is undergoing an investigation [ after showing her students a movie that aligned with her science curriculum. The film also briefly mentioned a male character's crush on another male character, causing one parent to submit a complaint.

The movie in question is Disney's animated Strange World, a PG story about a family's quest to save their planet. It displays themes of cooperation and respect for nature. If found guilty, Barbee could face thousands of dollars in fines and up to five years in prison.

During the public comment period of a recent Sarasota school board meeting, board chairwoman, Bridget Zeigler, allowed a speaker to spend their full three minutes verbally attacking board member Tom Edwards for being gay [ ]and cited pictures of him reading to children in their school library as sexual impropriety. Near the end of the hateful tirade, Edwards walked out of the session.

Local parent Jessica Thomason, who witnessed the event, recalls, "That kind of vitriol was honestly very alarming." She says it motivated her to "show up and speak … because the person who said that was speaking as a parent, and she doesn't speak for me." Thomason has since attended every school board meeting, as well as the county's superintendent search meetings, and has spoken during public comment periods.

This isn't the first time Zeigler's name has made shocking headlines. She is one of the founding members of Moms For Liberty, a far-right organization with a motive to gain positions of power and destroy public education—an organization that happened to endorse as many as 270 school board candidates nationally in 2022.

What are the laws, exactly?

HB 1557 [ ], named the Parental Rights in Education Bill, or the "Don't Say Gay" bill, took effect in July 2022 [ ]. This legislation prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity for kindergarten to third-grade students.

HB 1223 [ ] is the expansion of HB 1557. It extends the ban to 12th grade [ ] and takes effect July 1, 2023. All students and staff are also prohibited from asking about or using pronouns other than the ones assigned at birth.

HB 999 [ ] was originally proposed to ban universities from supporting any programs that "espouse diversity, equity, or inclusion" at universities, as well as gender studies and "Critical Race Theory rhetoric." It also allows board trustees to review the tenure of any faculty member. This bill has seen some modifications since its introduction in February [ ]. If passed, it would take effect in July 2023.

HB 7 [ ] , the Individual Freedoms Act, essentially prohibits workplace training on racial sensitivity, discrimination, or harassment, and bars any discussion of race in classrooms. This bill is also called the Stop WOKE Act [ ], with WOKE as an acronym for Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees. It took effect in July 2022.

What can someone do to help?

You can show support and solidarity by raising awareness about what's happening to Florida schools and contacting elected officials to express your opposition to oppressive legislation.

It's also imperative to participate in your local elections and pay close attention to changes in elected officials. Moms for Liberty has active chapters in Illinois and will likely back some candidates running in the next election cycle.

Change, both positive and negative, begins locally. If we combat hate in our close communities, we have a better chance as a society.

Nicole Pejovich is a freelance writer, parent of two elementary-aged daughters, and member of the LGBTQ+ community. She writes for, a queer travel website, and Project Pride SRQ, a local LGBTQ+ non-profit. When she's not writing, you'll find her enjoying time with her kiddos, gardening, supporting local artists, or smashing the patriarchy.

This article shared 4646 times since Mon Jun 19, 2023
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By


Gay News

Bring Chicago Home: Guess who's saying no again
Commentary by Bob Palmer and Mark Swartz - Chicago is ushering in an era of change with a new progressive mayor with a vision to invest in communities long ignored and a significant increase in like-minded city council members. We are excited to see ...

Gay News

ALMA Chicago holds second annual community reception
Association of Latinos/as/xs Motivating Action (ALMA) Chicago held its second annual community reception Nov. 30 at La Celia Latin Kitchen in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood. This free event introduced the inaugural ...

Gay News

Santos voted out of Congress
Now-former U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-New York) was voted out of Congress on Dec. 1. Santos is the sixth House member in U.S. history to be booted from Congress, and the third since the Civil War, ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Tenn. law, banned books, rainbow complex, journalists quit
Under pressure from a lawsuit over an anti-LGBTQ+ city ordinance, officials in Murfreesboro, Tennessee removed language that banned homosexuality in public, MSNBC noted. Passed in June, Murfreesboro's "public decency" ordinance ...

Gay News

Govs. Newsom and DeSantis debate LGBTQ+ rights, other issues
In a somewhat unusual face-off, Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis debated various topics in a Nov. 30 event that Fox News' Sean Hannity moderated, CBS News noted. "The Great Red ...

Gay News

Russia court classifies LGBTQ+ activists as 'extremists'
On Nov. 30, Russia's Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ+-rights activists should be classified as extremists—a move that representatives of queer people fear will lead to arrests and prosecutions, Reuters reported. The court approved a request from ...

Gay News

George Santos defiant ahead of another expulsion vote
Embattled gay U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-New York) has remained defiant ahead of a second expulsion vote scheduled for Friday, Dec. 1, according to CNN. Santos has repeatedly said that he will not resign, but momentum ...

Gay News

Fla. students walk out after school board's anti-trans actions
In Florida, hundreds of students at Coconut Creek's Monarch High School held a walkout on Nov. 28 after their principal and several other school officials were reportedly reassigned over a transgender student's participation on the girls ...

Gay News

WORLD Thai marriage law, French bill, Miss Universe, IKEA, activist dies
Thailand Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said that the cabinet approved a draft law on marriage equality and that it would be brought to parliament during a session starting in December, Reuters reported. If the draft law ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Trevor Project, anti-trans crimes, priest sentenced, hate-crimes unit
The Trevor Project announced the extension of its partnership with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, reaffirming its commitment to providing specialized assistance to LGBTQ+ people who call 9-8-8, The Advocate reported. Interim Senior Vice President ...

Gay News

OPINION For LGBTQ+ children, the holidays are often the most challenging time of the year
Holiday time for most of us is a time to spend more time with family and loved ones, but for many children, it is a harsh reminder of their non-acceptance and thus, is all the more difficult as well. ...

Gay News

YEPP 'rises' to occasion at fall fundraiser
Members and guests of Youth Empowerment Performance Project (YEPP) gathered Nov. 17 at Chicago Theater Works, 1113 W. Belmont Ave., for the organization's fall fundraiser, Rise Up: Our Celebration of Resistance. The evening marked both the ...

Gay News

Scotland announces five-year plan to help nonbinary people
Scotland's government has announced a five-year action plan to improve the lives of non-binary people, Yahoo! News reported. Among other things, the first-of-its-kind plan in the UK (and, quite possibly, in the world) includes actions to ...

Gay News

PASSAGES: Mexico's first out nonbinary magistrate Jesus Ociel Baena Saucedo
On Nov. 13, Mexico's first out nonbinary magistrate and LGBTQ+ activist Jesus Ociel Baena Saucedo was found dead in their state of Aguascalientes home alongside their partner Dorian Herrera. They were 38. According to state prosecutor ...

Gay News

Victory Fund celebrates Midwest LGBTQ+ activists and officials
On Nov. 15, the Victory Fund Midwest Chapter held its annual fundraiser and gala, "Victory in the Midwest," at Venue West. 221 N. Paulina St. The event honored Jim Bennett (formerly Lambda Legal's Chicago office manager ...


Copyright © 2023 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.

All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.