Hernando County teacher Jenna Barbee says a parent filed a complaint with education officials after she played the 2022 animated film Strange World in her fifth-grade classroom. It's Disney's first and only movie featuring an openly gay character.
Barbee is a first-year teacher at Winding Waters K-8, located in Brooksville. She has argued in public comment and online that she showed the PG-rated movie to tie to the class's Earth science lesson.
Officially, the film is about a "legendary family of explorers, the Clades, as they attempt to navigate an uncharted, treacherous land alongside a motley crew that includes a mischievous blob, a three-legged dog and a slew of ravenous creatures."
The film contains a subplot of a gay teen boy having a crush on and flirting with another teen boy. It has a score of "None" for sex and nudity, according to IMDb.
Strange World also shows kissing between two heterosexual characters, but the gay character was the only source of complaint, Barbee says.
The concerned parent, who is also a school board member and who Barbee identified to the Tallahassee Democrat as Shannon Rodriguez, filed the complaint.
An investigation by both the district and the state is now ongoing, NPR reported Tuesday.
The district also said it sent parents of Barbee's students a letter that reads, "While not the main plot of the movie, parts of the story involves a male character having and expressing feelings for another male character. In the future, this movie will not be shown."
The film can't be shown, the district added, because it violates Florida's "Parental Bill of Rights," or the so-called "Don't Say Gay" law, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law in 2022.
The incident and subsequent investigation first came into the public eye when a friend of Barbee's posted to Twitter a picture of the DOE letter supposedly sent to Barbee informing her of the investigation to come.
Shortly after, Barbee took to TikTok herself to share her side of the story Sunday.
My friend showed Disney’s Strange World in a Florida classroom and one student reported it to their parents. Now she’s under investigation by the state.— Carl Zee (@c350Zee) May 11, 2023
Florida is not safe for teachers, DO NOT MOVE HERE. pic.twitter.com/rZJPdadz28
She said the school's protocol for getting approval to show movies in the classroom was to get signed permission slips from parents ahead of time. Barbee says in the video she had signed slips from her students' parents approving all PG movies, with no objections to specific content in the movie.
Barbee also said investigators from the Florida Department of Education will be coming into her classroom to pull students to question them individually.
"You don't get to pick and choose which things you want and which things you don't," Barbee said, as reported by NPR. "That's the issue with our school system today. It's just this ongoing battle of everybody getting to push what they believe."
Since the incident, a petition has been formed to "remove Shannon Rodriguez" from the board. It reads, in part, "Her behavior at school board meetings continues to contribute to a maladaptive community environment regarding education."
The statement continues, "Most recently, at the Hernando County School Board meeting on May 5th, 2023, she inappropriately berated a public school teacher for showing a movie that featured, for a mere 2 minutes, a gay couple."
The petition has already received 5,713 signatures, as of Tuesday afternoon.
@becomingabetterbarbee I am the teacher. Here is the truth. #indoctrination #disneymovie #disney #strangeworld #viraltweet ♬ original sound - Jenna Lynn
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