LGBTQ - When Florida’s Lyman High School distributed yearbooks this spring to graduating seniors, it wasn’t just students who were racing through the 256 pages to find their favorite pics.
Seminole County Moms for Liberty Chair Jessica Tillmann was also scouring the yearbook, but for content that Christian mothers like her might find “inappropriate” for high schoolers.
She says she found some.
Tillman objected to two pages of the yearbook highlighting the school’s LGBTQ+ club. The pages included a glossary of terms defining about a dozen words, among them “cisgender,” “nonbinary,” and “queer.”
None of the words were sexual in nature.
“They shouldn’t have any sexual definitions in a yearbook,” Tillman told the Orlando Sentinel. “This is a yearbook that goes to every student as young as 14.”
Tillman says the LGBTQ+ pages violate Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Law, which was expanded earlier this month to prohibit instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity for kindergarten through 12th-grade students.
Now she’s among a small group of parents who have forced the school to remove the offending pages for those who want a copy of the publication free of LGBTQ+ content.
“While this matter is being reviewed further at the district level, any student or parent who purchased a copy of the 2022-23 Lyman yearbook may choose to return it to the school for a full refund or request an exchange for a re-printed yearbook that omits the pages in question,” Seminole County Public Schools Superintendent Serita Beamon wrote in a letter to parents, according to CBS affiliate WKMG-TV Orlando.
As of Friday, no one had requested a reprinted version of the yearbook.
Tillman says another parent not affiliated with Moms for Liberty filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Education about a week ago.
Other disgruntled parents expressed their outrage on social media.
“This gender ideology crap has parents in an uproar because it’s disgusting and wrong for an adult to sexualize a minor,” parent Sharman Craft posted on Facebook. “The district superintendent is ordering the school to give full refunds or have the books reprinted without the glossary of perverse sexual attractions and pronouns. We are just getting started.”
A former Seminole County Public Schools teacher says she was taught “that the public schools need to be NEUTRAL. This is a violation of public school professional educator ethics. It does not matter which side the issue you are on. This is NOT appropriate.”
Students dragged into LGBTQ+ outrage were clear-eyed about their own role.
“The student yearbook staff thought it was important to represent their LGBTQ+ classmates,” yearbook editor-in-chief Sara Ward told the Sentinel. “Our job as journalists and members of the yearbook staff is to provide coverage of the entire school and that includes all of the communities, including the LGBTQ+ community.”
“We’ve always had the LGBTQ+ spread in there,” she said.
Faculty yearbook adviser Danielle Pomeranz said the district’s decision to remove the LGBTQ+ pages was “unacceptable” and gives “into the bigotry.”
“They are definitions,” she said. “They are not teaching anything about sex at all. Nobody is teaching anybody about sex acts. It is ridiculous.”
One Twitter user put the uproar into historical context.
“Lyman High is just 25 minutes from Pulse. Kids are being punished for their own words in a metro where 49 people were killed in a gay club. If you think you’re ‘protecting kids,’ I want you to seriously get a grip.”
This is the second year in a row Lyman’s yearbook has sparked controversy.
In 2022, school officials weighed stickering over pictures of a student walkout protesting Florida’s Don’t Say Gay legislation.
The school board instead opted to provide disclaimers that the protest was not school sanctioned.
Yearbook staff earned the 2022 Student Press Freedom Award from the Student Press Law Center for their efforts fighting back against the district’s censorship.
While Tillman of Moms for Liberty deemed the district’s plan for a gay-free version of the book satisfactory, she demanded that Pomerantz and the school’s principal be fired.
Pomerantz didn’t wait to get the axe.
Two weeks ago, she resigned, citing Florida’s political climate and a lack of support from Seminole County’s school leadership.
(Greg Owen is a writer for LGBTQ Nation where this story was first published.)