Petition to remove Hernando Co. school board member for Disney movie complaint hits 18K names
A petition to remove a school board member who targeted a teacher for showing a Disney movie in class has reached more than 18,000 signatures on Change.org.
The Hernando County school board member, Shannon Rodriguez, allegedly filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Education against fifth grade teacher Jenna Barbee for streaming "Strange World," a 2022 Disney movie that features an out, gay character.
"With the school year coming to an end, time is of the essence. This petition urges Mrs. Rodriguez to listen to the community, step down from her position as a school board member, and serve her community and the school system in a different capacity, as this is not a good fit," wrote Hernando County resident and teacher Shelby Waymire, the creator of the Change.org petition.
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The petition started two weeks ago, and as of Friday morning, has 18,708 signatures.
"Shannon Rodriguez has displayed time and time again that, as a school board member, she does NOT support those who work in schools and has shown her disconnect with the reality of the public education system," the petition reads. "She has called staff members lazy, claimed we are exposing children to pornography, and aligned herself with those who state that educators are indoctrinating and grooming children."
Florida educators are prohibited from teaching about gender and sexual identity due to the Parental Rights in Education Act, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year. Teachers have expressed anxiety and confusion over the vague wording of the law, also known as "Don't Say Gay" by critics, for fear of losing their teaching licenses or criminal penalties if found in non-compliance.
Disney has been in a legal battle with DeSantis and the state of Florida since speaking out against the law and is suing the governor in federal court, charging him with violating the company's free speech rights and claiming the governor led a "targeted campaign of government retaliation" against the company, a charge DeSantis dismissed as "political."
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At a school board meeting May 5, Barbee, a teacher at Winding Waters K-8, said Rodriguez reported her to DOE because the Disney movie has an out, gay character.
Barbee said the Disney movie tied into her students' Earth science lesson and did not have sexually inappropriate content.
"The word indoctrination is thrown around a lot right now, but it seems that those who are using it are using it as a defense tactic for their own fear-based beliefs without understanding the true meaning of the word," Barbee said at the lectern during public comment.
Since Rodriguez took office in January, she has argued there is "smut" and "porn" on schools' library shelves and has asked for books to be removed, according to Suncoast News. Rodriguez was also endorsed by conservative parents' rights group Moms for Liberty.
At the school board meeting May 8, Rodriguez said she has called DOE about other issues in the district and believes children should not be "a pawn in the crossfire" of liberal political agendas.
"As a leader in this community, I'm not going to stand by and allow this minority to infiltrate our schools," she said.
Change.org also has a counter petition called "SAVE parental rights and PROTECT children's welfare," created by Hernando County resident Thomas Ksiezopolski.
"Shannon Rodriguez is attempting to save parents rights to decide what is best for their children," the petition reads. "She is dedicated to keeping the Woke agenda out of our schools in district 3 Hernando County Florida. Woke has started a petition to have her removed and supposedly they have 12,000 signatures. We need all people to step up and help her protect the children."
The petition, created a week ago, has six signatures.
This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Petition to remove Hernando County school board member circulating