Florida students continue organizing in defiance of the state’s educational mandates. Credit: Octavio Jones / Bloomberg via Getty Images
Florida students are taking a half-day Friday, not in anticipation of the weekend, but to walk out in protest of recent moves by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and state legislators to limit school curriculum.
The 12 p.m. mass demonstrations, set to take place at more than 300 campuses across Florida, are organized by Walkout 2 Learn(opens in a new tab), a Florida-based network of student activists leading an opposition effort across the country in protest.
“Black, queer, trans, and female-identifying people and their histories are the targets of government censorship. Florida’s government is, no exaggeration, leading an authoritarian takeover of its public education system. Our governor has forgotten that students have rights. We’re here to remind him,” the site reads. “This is an education, an activation, a revolution.”
Earlier in the week, DeSantis expanded(opens in a new tab) the reach of the controversial Parental Rights in Education bill (also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill) passed last year, which banned discussion of LGBTQ issues in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. The latest expansion will forbid teachers across all grades from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity, “unless such instruction is either expressly required by state academic standards…or is part of a reproductive health course or health lesson for which a student’s parent has the option to have his or her student not attend.”
The youth organizers also are decrying Florida lawmakers’ introduction of bills to limit Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives(opens in a new tab) at state colleges and universities, implement moderation requirements for school libraries(opens in a new tab), and restrict sexual health education(opens in a new tab).
The coalition of Florida students and organizations was connected by The Social Equity through Education Alliance(opens in a new tab) (SEE(opens in a new tab)), Teen Vogue reported(opens in a new tab), which seeks to empower youth political power through local community organizing.
Walkout 2 Learn was founded by 19-year-old Zander Moricz, who is also the mind behind SEE. He told Teen Vogue that organizers are hoping to garner attention from lawmakers who have been ignoring students for too long. “They are not dealing with our perspectives,” he said. Moricz has become an outspoken LGBTQ student activist(opens in a new tab) since garnering attention with his high school graduation speech(opens in a new tab), which strategically skirted around his school’s prohibition on using the word “gay.” He’s also the face of Walkout 2 Learn’s TikTok presence(opens in a new tab).
Tweet may have been deleted (opens in a new tab) How to get involved whether in Florida or afarMoricz and the other student organizers are calling for supporters nationwide to join them in Friday’s action and have published a toolkit(opens in a new tab) for those looking for guidance on organizing their own demonstration or otherwise supporting the cause before, during, and after the walkout. Resources include guidance on how to donate to the efforts, spread the word, and join coalitions and teams dedicated to continuing the work.
“Walkout 2 Learn recognizes the harmful fascism that Floridians are experiencing every day and will provide immediate, short-term solutions to every participant so that they may protect themselves and their communities,” it reads. “In the long-term, Walkout 2 Learn gives every participant avenues to build power and community so that the next time we have a chance at making our voices heard in the legislature, we’re ready.”
Interested students are encouraged to join Walkout 2 Learn’s Slack channel(opens in a new tab) to connect with fellow organizers, find training, and get additional support. The coalition’s Instagram page(opens in a new tab) is also hosting student story takeovers and will be resharing “Why I’m Walking Out” vlogs taken by participating students.
What makes the demonstration unique is that Walkout 2 Learn isn’t letting class just stop when students take to the streets. It’s honoring, but adding to, the demonstrations of Florida students last year by providing educational opportunities to students on the ground.
Attendees of Friday’s walkouts will participate in a five-minute, peer-led, banned curriculum lesson led in defiance of DeSantis’ educational mandates, says Walkout 2 Learn, with each peer instructor receiving instruction from Harvard educators. The organizers will also provide the option for students to enroll in a virtual, college-level African American studies course, which organizers are creating along with professors from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other institutions across the country.
At the end, students will be asked to sign an “Active Pledge” and make sure their voter registration is up to date. Follow-up rallies in several cities, including Miami, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and Orlando, will begin at 6 p.m.
Walkout 2 Learn walkouts and rallies can be found by searching the online event registry(opens in a new tab).
Friday’s events have garnered the support of celebrities, like actor Beanie Feldstein(opens in a new tab), and popular TikTok advocates and educators like Griffin Maxwell Brooks(opens in a new tab), Khalil Greene(opens in a new tab), and Jory(opens in a new tab) (@AlluringSkull).
The Florida Democratic Party and Rep. Anna Eskamani also have come out in support of Walkout 2 Learn, signaling a partisan outcry amid this week’s actions.
Tweet may have been deleted (opens in a new tab) Tweet may have been deleted (opens in a new tab) In the long term, Moricz told Teen Vogue that student organizers are approaching the state’s legislative future pragmatically, focused on building a strong foundation of outspoken students. “We need to provide ourselves with curriculum, with resources, with activations, with communities. It’s a short- and long-term strategy that allows survival and then, hopefully, a chance at reclaiming our state.”
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