Jenna Barbee, a fifth-grade teacher in Florida, is being investigated by the Florida Department of Education after she showed the movie “Strange World,” a 2022 animated Disney movie featuring a character who is gay and biracial. Barbee is being investigated for indoctrination, which is defined as “the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.” The movie was shown in a not-full classroom of students after a long day of standardized testing. Barbee had previously signed permission slips from all parents, allowing the students to watch a PG-rated movie.
A parent, who is also a member of the Hernando County School District Board, filed a complaint to the school and reported her to the state Department of Education. The complaint claimed that the movie was not appropriate for students. Following the complaint, an announcement was made to parents from the school district stating, “Yesterday, the Disney movie ‘Strange World’ was shown in your child’s classroom; while not the main plot of the movie, parts of the story involve a male character having and expressing feelings for another male character. In the future, this movie will not be shown. The school administration and the district’s Professional Standards Dept are currently reviewing the matter to see if further corrective action is required.”
This incident is following Florida’s controversial legislation, signed by Governor DeSantis, banning certain instructions about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom. DeSantis and supporters pushed for this measure as a form of “parental rights,” but others argue that it is taking away other rights from the LGBTQ community. This policy was expanded to all students through high school, and teachers who violate the policy could be suspended or have their teaching licenses revoked.
Barbee addressed the board members during a public meeting, saying, “A school board member, an elected official of power, who was supposed to be nonpartisan, is allowed to present to the public that she is Christian and that God appointed her to the board. And yet it is indoctrinated that I showed a Disney movie. I’m a first-year teacher.” She went on to mention how the movie was in no way sexual and was tied to the current lesson plan of the environment and ecosystems. Shannon Rodriguez, the parent and board member who complained, responded, “It is not a teacher’s job to impose their beliefs upon a child: religious, sexual orientation, gender identity, any of the above. But allowing movies such as this assist teachers in opening a door, and please hear me, they assist teachers in opening a door for conversations that have no place in our classrooms; as a leader in this community, I’m not going to stand by and allow this minority to infiltrate our schools … God did put me here.”
In my mind, part of a teacher’s job is to expand young minds, and laws and elected officials in places like Florida make it very hard. It makes you wonder what the goal is for educating the next generation.