A Florida high school student has been suspended indefinitely after handing out pride flags during a walkout to protest the stateâ€™s so-called â€œDonâ€™t Say Gayâ€ bill.
Flagler Palm Coast High School junior Jack Petocz helped organize a statewide walkout on Thursday to protest House Bill 1557, a hugely controversial measure that would prohibit school instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.
About 500 students at his Palm Coast school participated in Thursdayâ€™s walkout, chanting, â€œSay gay!â€ Petocz handed out 200 pride flags he said he purchased with his own money. Students had been given just 15 minutes to protest.
Petocz told the Daytona Beach News-Journal he was called into the principalâ€™s office after the protest, â€œtold I was disrespectful and openly advocating against staff.â€
â€œThey suspended me from campus until further notice. I informed the principal I wasnâ€™t going to speak with him and was going to talk to a lawyer,â€ Petocz added.
He said an hour before the protest, the principal pulled him aside and specifically complained about the flags. â€œHe told me I wouldnâ€™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.â€
A spokesperson for the Flagler school district insisted in a statement to the Daytona newspaper that Petocz had not been suspended but had been â€œplaced on excused administrative leaveâ€ while school officials investigate.
Petocz said he would do it again. â€œI may have been suspended, but I will not be silenced. I am proud of who I am, and I am #notafraidtosaygay,â€ he said in a Twitter statement.
One of the people responding to Petoczâ€™s statement was Florida anti-gun activist David Hogg, who survived the 2018 mass shooting at Parklandâ€™s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people and injured 17.
He reminded everyone that students in Florida are â€œnot putting up with [Gov. Ron] DeSantisâ€™s homophobic bull shit.â€