Florida high school student Zander Moricz claims he was told not to mention ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law in graduation speech

OSPREY, Fla. — A Florida high school student who is openly gay is speaking out after saying he was subject to censorship by school officials if he mentioned the state’s ‘Parental Rights in Education’ law, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law by critics, in his graduation speech.

Zander Moricz, a senior and class president at Pine View School in Osprey, Fla., claimed he was “quiet” in a Twitter thread two weeks ago. He wrote: “My principal called me into his office and informed me that if my graduation speech referred to my activism or my role as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, the school administration had a signal to mute my microphone, end my speech and interrupt the ceremony.”

Moricz is also one of the youngest plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed against the state of Florida over the Parental Rights in Education Act.

The 18-year-old told ‘Good Morning America’ he was worried before the speech but felt supported by classmates and peers, some of whom wore ‘Say Gay’ stickers and stood and clapped during his speech on Sunday.

“There was a lot of hate and a lot of fear around the talk about what people were going to do if someone was going to react badly because it was really there in the community — that hate and that fear — and so I ‘was worried and knew there was potential to cut the mic,’ he told ‘Good Morning America’ on Monday.

“To have a standing ovation like that and a response like that from all those people was amazing,” he said. “It was truly a grand finale for four years of high school.”

AFTER: The so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill is now officially state law

Moricz, a staunch LGBTQ rights advocate, called his “curly hair” a euphemism for being gay in his speech.

“That characteristic has probably become the first thing you think of when you think of me as a human being. As you know, I have curly hair,” Moricz said in his speech.

“There will be so many curly-haired kids who need a community like Pine View and they won’t have one. Instead, they’ll try to fix themselves so they can exist in Florida’s humid climate” , he continued.

Appearing to be trying to walk a fine line between following the law and allowing Moricz to deliver his speech as class president, Pine View School pre-approved of his understatement-laden remarks.

In a statement released before graduation, the school said in part: “Students are reminded that a graduation should not be a platform for personal political statements…If a student deviates from this expectation at graduation, it may be necessary to take appropriate action.”

SEE ALSO: Hundreds of students hold a ‘We Say Gay’ rally in New York to protest Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill

Moricz said having to edit his graduation speech was beyond disappointing.

“It was a really dehumanizing decision because I had to take something that I had written and…I had to find a way to be smart about discussing who I was,” he said. “Because the district said they supported the action if I brought up the lawsuit or plea surrounding it, I knew the threat to mute was very real, so I wasn’t going to let that happen. produce and I just had to be smart about it. But I shouldn’t have been because I don’t exist in an understatement and I deserve to be celebrated as I am.

Moricz’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, says the “Parental Rights in Education” law was purposely drafted to be too broad and open.

“Zander was censored and he shouldn’t have censored himself and not been able to talk about who he really is in his opening speech,” Kaplan told ‘GMA’. “This is just the tip of the iceberg. The law itself was deliberately written to be as vague and broad as possible. So what you get is what you saw with Zander and applies obviously in the beginning. We saw it yesterday, and it applies in many, many other circumstances.”

Moricz credits one of his teachers for helping him come out as a young teenager and said the law would prevent other young people from feeling safe and protected to do so.

“What this law does is it effectively takes away the only guaranteed safe space for the majority of the entire LGBTQ population here,” he said. “It’s awful because what you have then is so many kids having to make the choice between going out in dangerous ways or not going out at all.”

Moricz said he plans to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and is studying government at Harvard University in the fall.

“I’m going to focus on the government to try to solve the same problems that I’m trying to solve now,” he said.

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Martha K. Merrill