Like any high school yearbook, Longwood, Florida’s Lyman High School, considered to be one of the best in the state, will have room for the usual autographs in their yearbooks: “Have a good summer!” “I’ll never forget our English class!” and the two-word message when you can’t think of anything else: “Good Luck!” What they will NOT have is the total erasure of a student-led event.
As of May 10th, the Seminole County School Board, voted 5-0 to overturn Superintendent Serita Beamon’s plan to cover up Lyman School’s yearbook page showing students waving a rainbow flag. The rainbow flag is a symbol of diversity and LGBTQ+ rights.
The Flag Continues to Wave
In this case, it became a symbol of division among parents, the School Board, including the School Principal, Michael Hunter. The student-led protest of Governor Ron DeSantis’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay Bill” or Parental Rights in Education Bill HB 1557 that denies discussion of LGBT topics such as sexual orientation and gender identity in K-3 in Florida schools. The protest, joined by other schools in the Orlando area, was in response to the Governor’s passed bill that is contentious.
The peaceful walkout protest by students last March was NOT endorsed or authorized by Lyman and was publicized by students with the hashtags: #Love is Love and #stop the stickers on social media. Florida’s Democratic Representative Anna Eskamani regards the attempted erasure of student activities a violation of the First Amendment and “the school district’s pressure to censor their students in the classroom and libraries.”
The Parkland Shooting Protest Made The Yearbook
Lyman alumna Ms. Madi Koesel, who volunteers at Lyman, calls the whole debacle “censorship” and said that a yearbook should reflect the year’s activities. “ The Parkland Shooting Walkout Protest at Lyman made the yearbook in 2018,” so a precedent was set.
Up until Tuesday evening, Lyman, founded in 1924, would not have a yearbook that would satisfy the student body, particularly the LGBTQ+ population. The yearbook was reviewed and the material in their eyes did not meet school board policy. However, the Seminole County School Board reversed its decision to censor on May 10th.
The Big Compromise
Rather than covering up the whole page in question with large stickers, the School Board vote 5-0 is allowing smaller stickers to be inserted in the yearbook. They won’t cover up words and pictures and students can use them to autograph.
This may be a compromise. Faculty advisor Danielle Pomeranz estimates that 600 reprints of the yearbook would cost $45,000. The yearbooks will be given out in a timely fashion – before graduation!
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.