PALM COAST, Florida. – The student credited with organizing statewide school protests to protest the Parental Rights in Education Bill, also called the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” by the critics, was suspended Thursday from Flagler Palm Coast High School, according to multiple sources.
The school district declined to confirm details of the suspension, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
Petocz also released a statement, saying school administrators suspended him for organizing the protest at the FPCHS even though the school had given approval for the rallies.
“Although the school administration initially approved of the rally and expressed support for students’ civil liberties, their demeanor and tone changed dramatically as the rally progressed,” Petocz’s post said. . “Administrators began confiscating pride flags and attempted to remove them from campus.”
I organized the state #DSGWalkout today in response to attempts to silence and erase the LGBTQ+ community in Florida. I was suspended indefinitely from my school for organizing a peaceful rally. Read my full statement below. pic.twitter.com/R5tplMvC8D
—Jack Petocz (@Jack_Petocz) March 3, 2022
Petocz’s post said he encouraged his classmates not to return their pride flags when administrators and staff attempted to confiscate them, and that following the rally he was informed that he was suspended “indefinitely”.
According to the Flagler County School District, student organizers had communicated with administrators about the rally and received some parameters on how to hold it.
“School administration has spoken with the event organizer on several occasions about expectations and parameters so that students can participate in a peaceful and safe protest,” district spokesman Jason Wheeler said in a statement. News4JAX. “A block of time had been set aside for students from both high school campuses to participate in their planned protest.”
Wheeler also said the students were told that if they returned to class after the time limit for the protest, they would be subject to disciplinary action.
“Student leaders were advised ‘no flags’ prior to and at the start of the event to avoid undue security concerns and campus disruptions,” Wheeler said in the statement.
When asked to clarify, Wheeler pointed to the district’s student code of conduct which loosely defines “prohibited items” as items “that are not required to participate in school activities or classes.” The district’s full statement is below.
In response to Petocz’s suspension, thousands of classmates and supporters signed an online petition asking the district to reinstate him.
The petition was created by Petocz’s classmate and the school’s junior class president, Cameron Driggers.
“We have strength in numbers,” Driggers said of yesterday’s statewide student-led protests. “If we take a stand now, we show those who represent us that we have a voice and that we can understand and think critically and basically defend ourselves. It gives us credibility as a generation and lets them know that we take this seriously.
Full statement from the Flagler County School District:
“First, there is School Board Policy 522 which states that ‘Any student who participates in a boycott, walkout, sit-in, strike, or any similar disruptive action that interferes with the proper functioning of the school will be deemed guilty of serious misconduct and will be subject to suspension or expulsion from the school. That being said, in the past, our school administrators have worked successfully with students who have staged walkouts to participate in a peaceful protest, without interfering with the learning environment of students who do not wish to participate. It is the same in this case.
District administrators this week worked with the principals of both high schools to establish an action plan to enable the student protest, without disrupting other students who would rather not participate. In addition, they must consider the safety of the participating students.
An open line of communication between students or student leaders and school administrators, teachers, and staff is essential to ensure that a student’s concerns can be properly addressed and addressed within the confines of the school day. However, this must be done without marginalizing that student’s concerns or disrupting the learning environment for other students.
A block of time had been set aside for students from both high school campuses to participate in their planned protest. They were then given the opportunity to return to their classrooms. If students show up to class after the allotted time, then they will be subject to the Student Code of Conduct.
Student leaders were advised “no flags” before and at the start of the event to avoid undue security concerns and campus disruptions. This is set out in our Student Code of Conduct, which prohibits items not required for school/educational courses.
The school administration has repeatedly discussed with the event organizer expectations and parameters for students to participate in a peaceful and safe protest.
With regards to disciplinary action, we are not permitted to speak to specific students due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). We can say that the school administrators are reviewing several videos of the event. »
Jason Wheeler, Spokesperson, Flagler County School District
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