Pine View Student Says School Wants to Censor Him

Todays News

The class president at a Sarasota County school earned national attention after revealing administration asked him not to discuss politics in a graduation speech.

Zander Moricz, a senior at Pine View School and the school’s first openly gay class president, said he sat down with the school’s principal two weeks ago for what he thought was a routine meeting. Instead, the principal told him not to discuss his political activism during his remarks at a graduation ceremony or his microphone would be cut off.

“He began with a convoluted explanation that my passions were cool and he supported them, but that they were inappropriate or too controversial for a school setting,” Moricz said. “I was told that a discussion of my identity or my human rights would be upsetting to the ceremony's pleasantness and that it would disrupt the fun of graduation.”

Principal Dr. Stephen Covert did not return calls from SRQ on Tuesday and Wednesday. The school district released a statement to media outlets stating: "We honor and celebrate the incredible diversity in thought, belief, and background in our school, and champion the uniqueness of every single student on their personal and educational journey."

No speech has yet been submitted for final review.

Moricz said up until now, he’s had a good relationship with administration. “Pine View has been a safe space for me and now I feel sick in the morning when I go to school,” he said.

Moricz is one of the individual plaintiffs in Equality Florida’s lawsuit against the state of Florida over a controversial parental rights law dubbed by critics as the “don’t say gay” bill. That law restricts instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, and requires curriculum about the issues at other grade levels to be age appropriate. Moricz this year led a student walkout at school to protest the bill while the Legislature was considering it.

Of note, Sarasota School Board Member Bridget Ziegler, a supporter of the law who stood by Gov. Ron DeSantis when he signed it, somewhat surprisingly suggested schools show restraint when it comes to limiting topics in student speeches. While she would not speak to litigation or a particular student's situation, she said students should be able to share their own story of coming through the local schools.

"I believe we should empower all students to be able to tell their story in a manner that's consistent with the district's review process," Ziegler said. "I strongly believe in every student's ability to share their journey and perspective."

Even before the law came up, Moricz has been involved in politics, which is how he connected with Equality Florida.

The 18-year-old isn’t sure yet how he will handle graduation on May 22, but he feels an obligation to say something about what he considers censorship, and a quashing of speech he feels likely ties directly to educator fears about the “don’t say gay” law’s restrictions on appropriate school subject materials.

But if nothing else, he hopes taking a stance inspires others. “You shouldn’t have to fight to exist,” he said.


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