After passing out pride flags during a walkout to protest the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” policy, a Florida high school student has been suspended indefinitely.
Jack Petocz, a junior at Flagler Palm Coast High School, helped organize a statewide walkout on Thursday to oppose House Bill 1557, a divisive bill that would restrict schools from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
Around 500 students from his Palm Coast high school took part in the protest on Thursday, yelling “Say gay!” Petocz distributed 200 pride flags that he said he bought with his own money. Students were given only 15 minutes to demonstrate.
After the demonstration, Petocz was sent to the principal’s office, where he was “told I was disrespectful and openly advocating against staff,” according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
“They suspended me from campus until further notice. I informed the principal I wasn’t going to speak with him and was going to talk to a lawyer,” Petocz added.
“He told me I wouldn’t be allowed to [distribute the flags]. He went further to question the intentions of our protest, asking if pride flags were relevant to opposition to the bill.” He went on to challenge our protest’s motives, questioning if pride flags were significant to the bill’s opponents.”
In a statement to the Daytona Sun, a Flagler school system representative stated that Petocz had not been suspended, but had been “placed on excused administrative leave” while school authorities investigated.
Petocz stated that he would do it all over again.“I may have been suspended, but I will not be silenced. I am proud of who I am, and I am #notafraidtosaygay,” he said in a Twitter statement.
David Hogg, a Florida anti-gun activist who survived the 2018 mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that murdered 17 people and wounded 17, was one of many who responded to Petocz’s comments.
Students in Florida are “not putting up with [Gov. Ron] DeSantis’s homophobic bull ***,” he said.