Florida Teacher Says She Is Under State Investigation for Showing Disney Movie to 5th-Grade Students
A fifth-grade public school teacher in Florida says she is under investigation after showing an animated Disney movie, which features a biracial and gay character, to her students.
Public school teacher Jenna Barbee says she is under investigation by the Florida Department of Education after she showed the 2022 Disney film "Strange World" to her fifth-grade students, who all had signed permission forms to view PG-rated movies.
Barbee took to TikTok to tell her story, expressing incredulity over being investigated after showing an animated film about a family of explorers to her students, who were learning about the environment and ecosystems, she said.
“I am the teacher that is under investigation with the Florida Department of Education for indoctrination for showing a Disney movie,” Barbee says in her six-minute video.
The teacher said she had no intention of indoctrinating children, and was only motivated by showing her students the importance of accepting and respecting all kids on campus.
“This is the public education system, where students from all backgrounds, cultures and religions are welcomed and should be celebrated and represented,” Barbee said. “I am not, and never would, indoctrinate anyone to follow my beliefs. I will, however, always be a safe person to come to that spreads the message of kindness, positivity and compassion for everyone.”
At issue is GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis' controversial law enacted last year that prohibits talking about sexuality and gender identity in public schools. The applies to students in grades K through high school. DeSantis said the law is designed to restore "parental rights" in school subjects.
Critics dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation and said it was a blatant restriction to silence the LGBTQ community and its members. It also sparked a very public war between entertainment giant Disney and the state of Florida, home to Walt Disney World and the Epcot resorts, which draw more than 10 million annual visitors and employs more than 77,000 workers.
After Barbee showed the film, a parent reported her, she said. The Hernando School District sent a note home with students on May 4.
"Yesterday, the Disney movie ‘Strange World’ was shown in your child’s classroom. While not the main plot of the movie, parts of the story involve a male character having and expressing feelings for another male character" the letter said. "In the future, this movie will not be shown. The school administration and the district’s Professional Standards Dept. is currently reviewing the matter to see if further corrective action is required. Thank you."
The parent also complained to the state education department, Barbee said. The mother, who is also on the board of the local school district, spoke at a public board meeting last week.
“It is not a teacher’s job to impose their beliefs upon a child: religious, sexual orientation, gender identity, any of the above. But allowing movies such as this assist teachers in opening a door, and please hear me, they assist teachers in opening a door for conversations that have no place in our classrooms,” Shannon Rodriguez told the Hernando School District board meeting.
Florida Department of Education press secretary Cassie Palelis told Inside Edition Digital Tuesday that state law prohibited her from confirming or denying the existence of an investigation.
"I understand that the individual in question has discussed her case publicly. However, we will not allow politics and media pressure to dictate our process,” Palelis said.
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