“[The “Don’t Say Gay” bill] is oppressing students, and it has not even gone into effect yet,” says Zander Moricz, his high school’s first openly gay class president
NBC News and the Rollingstone.
Florida high school senior Zander Moricz was called into his principal’s office last week. As class president his whole high school career — and his school’s first openly LGBTQ student to hold the title — this was a fairly routine request. But once he entered the administrator’s office, he said, he immediately knew “this wasn’t a typical meeting.”
His principal — Stephen Covert of Pine View School in Osprey, Florida, roughly 70 miles south of Tampa — warned Moricz that if his graduation speech referenced his LGBTQ activism, school officials would cut off his microphone, end his speech and halt the ceremony, Moricz alleged.
I am the youngest public plaintiff in the “Don’t Say Gay” lawsuit. I am my Florida high school’s first openly-gay Class President. I am being silenced, and I need your help. — zander moricz (@zandermoricz) May 9, 2022
“He said that he just ‘wanted families to have a good day’ and that if I was to discuss who I am and the fight to be who I am, that would ‘sour the celebration,’” Moricz, 18, recalled. “It was incredibly dehumanizing.”
Covert did not reply to NBC News’ questions concerning his alleged warning to Moricz. However, he released a statement through his employer, Sarasota County Schools, saying he and other school officials “champion the uniqueness of every single student on their personal and educational journey.”
In a statement, Sarasota County Schools confirmed Covert and Moricz’s meeting, adding that graduation speeches are routinely reviewed to ensure they are “appropriate to the tone of the ceremony.”
Moricz plans to give his speech as anticipated, and hopes to use his voice to speak up for other LGBTQ students like himself, especially after growing up in a community where he didn’t necessarily feel welcome to come out.
“Sarasota, as a community, has been a hateful environment to grow up in. Since my role in the lawsuit went public, we have had people run into my parents’ place of work screaming about me,” he says. “I’ve received death threats, both in person and online. I don’t go to the grocery store alone, because I typically get someone trying to debate or trying to threaten me and it’s really wild.”