A Florida class president spoke in code about being gay while giving his graduation speech, CNN reported, because he says he “wasn’t allowed” to discuss his sexuality or the fact that he’s one of the plaintiffs challenging the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, which recently passed in the state.
The 18-year-old told the network he was forbidden to discuss his sexuality in his address, so he substituted what he wanted to say by discussing how he was different because of his curly hair. Zander Moricz, who attends Pine View School in Osprey, talked about how disappointed he was not being able to speak on the topics. According to CNN, Moricz is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the Florida law.
CNN reported in March how the new law states that “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
These rules would not have prohibited Moricz from discussing his sexuality during his graduation speech. The teen told CNN that his principal, Stephen Covert, told him he couldn’t talk about his sexuality or the lawsuit during the address but didn’t specifically say it had anything to do with HB 1557.
“He’d always been very supportive of me and my identity and I was really hurt,” the student said of his principal.
The CNN article noted that Moricz came out as gay during his freshman year and was the first openly-gay class president at the school. This made him want to discuss these details during the speech.
“When you take that only guaranteed space and you make it one that victimizes an entire population of students, what you’re doing is you’re forcing kids to make the choice of either not come out safely or not come out at all,” he said.
Instead, the class president used his curly hair as a metaphor for being gay rather than explicitly discussing it.
“I used to hate my curls. I spend mornings and nights embarrassed of them trying desperately to straighten this part of who I am. But the daily damage of trying to fix myself became too much to do,” he said in his speech. “So while having curly hair in Florida is difficult, due to the humidity, I decided to be proud of who I was and started coming to school as my authentic self.”
Moricz said he approached his teachers for advice upon discovering his sexual preference because he didn’t have “other curly-haired people” to talk to.
“Now I’m happy. Now I’m happy, and that is what is at stake. There are going to be so many kids with curly hair, who need a community like Pine View and they won’t have one,” Moricz said in the speech. “Instead, they’ll try to fix themselves so that they can exist in Florida’s humid climate.”
After the speech, the principal applauded and hugged Moricz on stage.
“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,” Covert said in a statement, per CNN.
Sarasota County Schools told CNN in a statement that school administrators review all graduation speeches. They went on to confirm that Covert reminded Moricz of “ceremony expectations.”
“As in years past, student speakers were reminded that graduation is a community celebration and were encouraged to tailor their remarks to be reflective of experiences & memories that all students could appreciate to best reflect all facets of the graduating class’s achievements,” a statement from the school said.