TALLAHASSEE — Ryan Petty, a Parkland father, was confirmed by the Florida Senate on Friday to serve on the State Board of Education.
Petty has become a state political figure since his daughter, Alaina, was killed in the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He came to Tallahassee to lobby state leaders to pass a landmark bill responding to Parkland, and he was later named to the commission charged with analyzing the tragedy and making recommendations to lawmakers. He also ran for a seat on the Broward County School Board, but lost.
That loss sparked opposition from Democrats, who argued that Petty was being elevated to oversee the entire state’s public education system despite the fact that local voters didn’t want him to manage their district.
“He didn’t win ... and now here we are putting him in charge of the entire state,” said Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens. “I think we should respect the people who actually live there with Mr. Petty.”
Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Lauderhill, referenced Petty’s history of making waves with his tweets.
During his race for school board, the Sun Sentinel noted that Petty has made several controversial tweets, including some that disparaged public schools or took jabs at public employee unions. He also made jokes or sarcastic remarks that mention blacks, Jews, Muslims, or LGBTQ people, according to the Sentinel.
“When you’re tweeting... you’re putting it on a neon flashing billboard,” Thurston said. “You’re saying, ‘This is what I stand for.’”
At the time, Petty told the newspaper that he regretted some of the tweets but others were taken out of context.
After the brief debate, the vote to confirm Petty passed along party lines. Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, was the only senator who did not cast a vote and was absent from the floor. Book serves on the post-Parkland committee with Petty.