PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Parents, students and teachers wearing purple packed the Pasco County school board meeting and overflow room Monday night as they spoke out against the district’s removal of “safe space” stickers from school property.
“You will use your power to proclaim October Bullying Prevention Month, but we know these are just hollow words from weak people,” Myndee Washington said during public comment.
The Pasco superintendent says the district is simply complying with Florida’s new “Parental Rights in Education” law, but concerned parents and teachers say getting rid of the rainbow stickers will make Pasco schools less safe for LGBTQ students.
“A sticker is a small thing, but it’s a symbol that we as educators will treasure and accept all of our students,” a teacher told school board members.
Teacher Jeremy Blythe pointed out other school districts have not indicated they’re banning “safe space” stickers. He said he believes the Pasco school district is prioritizing its fear of litigation from parents over the well-being of LGBTQ students.
“You abandon your principles based on being afraid of a small group of very loud people,” he said.
Only one parent spoke in favor of removing the rainbow stickers during public comment.
“They’re against this indoctrination of the school. They’re against the safe spaces,” Rebecca Yuengling said.
Pasco’s superintendent defended the district’s decision during his comments. He also told the crowd under the new law teachers can no longer have private or personal conversations with students. He said anyone upset about that or the “safe space” sticker removal should direct their concerns toward the governor and state lawmakers in Tallahassee.
“I don’t care if you like boys or if you like girls,” Browning said. “It is no business of mine but as long as you’re in this district to get an education, it will be done in a safe learning environment.”
But transgender high school student Max Cash said the school hasn’t always been a safe place. He said he’s had to overcome bullying since the 8th grade.
“I’ve been down the dark hole and have attempted multiple times myself and I’ve come back from that severely,” Cash said. “I’m in such a better place now that they really should consider keeping them up because it does wonders for all of us.”