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Orange County students protest anti-LGBTQ policies

Will Larkins, a senior at Winter Park High, leads the protests against anti-LGBTQ policies.
Danielle Prieur
Will Larkins, a senior at Winter Park High, leads the protests against anti-LGBTQ policies.

Dozens of Orange County Public School students and their parents protested anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans policies outside the school board meeting on Tuesday.

They waved rainbow flags and trans pride flags, and carried signs that read "Drag is Art" and "You Ban Drag When Guns Are Killing Us."

Winter Park High Senior Will Larkins led the protest, calling out the district for canceling a Drag and Donuts event last month. The event was originally scheduled to take place at Boone High School, before the district received complaints from the Board of Education.

Students also protested the lack of LGBTQ history in high school curriculum and textbooks. Next week, the Board of Education will vote on a proposal to extend a ban on discussions of gender and sexuality into the upper grades.

Larkins says he wishes Florida legislators would focus more on protecting kids in classrooms from gun violence, then on attacking the LGBTQ community, citing the most recent mass shooting at a school that left six dead in Nashville.

"They're focused on the wrong things. So right here we show, you know, the stark reality of what's going on. The rainbows, the colors, the makeup, the glitter, that's all the queer community is about. We're about celebration, we're about love," said Larkins. "We're about pride and color. And that is what they're trying to get rid of instead of the dead children in our schools."

Andrea Montanez of Hope Community Center was at the rally outside the school board to support the kids.

Montanez says she's started to receive threats again because of the rhetorical attacks on transgender women in the legislature. Earlier this week Rep. Webster Barnaby called transgender people "demons" and "mutants." She says she hasn't felt this unsafe since she first came out.

Students protest anti-LGBTQ policies outside the school board.
Danielle Prieur
Students protest anti-LGBTQ policies outside the school board.

“Yeah so now the people are gonna hate. Today, when I walked in here, two people called me a demon already. I’m not a demon," said Montanez. "And these kids are not demons. I’m here to protect these kids. The reason I showed up is that we have to support the kids.” 

Barnaby has since apologized for his comments about the LGBTQ community, after several colleagues called for his resignation.

Supporters of the ban on drag in schools along with LGBTQ content, say the rules clarify any confusion around what is age-appropriate content for kids.

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.
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