Florida launches inquiry into teacher who showed Disney film

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state
Students of a  Hernando County fifth grade teacher will be interviewed regarding a complaint that she showed the Disney film "Strange World" to their class. A school board member filed the complaint with the state.
Students of a Hernando County fifth grade teacher will be interviewed regarding a complaint that she showed the Disney film "Strange World" to their class. A school board member filed the complaint with the state. [ DISNEY | TNS ]
Published May 17|Updated May 17

The viral story: A Hernando County fifth grade teacher continues to get international attention after being reported to the state Department of Education by a school board member for showing the Disney movie “Strange World” to her class.

The movie includes a gay character as a secondary plot.

The latest twist has department officials headed to Winding Waters K-8 this week to interview students about the teacher and the showing of the film. The teacher, Jenna Barbee, has defended showing the movie, which she said was relevant to her students’ lessons and did not include any sexually inappropriate content. Read more here.

She also said she was not aware the state had extended its rules limiting discussion about LGBTQ issues to her grade level, CNN reports. Fox News described Barbee as “defiant.”

Hot topics

Book challenges: The Orange County school board reluctantly adopted new book challenge policy, with members saying their hands were tied by state law, Orlando Weekly reports. • Civil rights icon Ruby Bridges spoke out against book bans and the importance of teaching accurate history during an appearance in Memphis, Chalkbeat Tennessee reports. A movie about her story was challenged earlier this year at a Pinellas County school.

Public records: A Seminole County charter school faces subpoenas over possible Sunshine Law violations, the Orlando Sentinel reports. • The Broward County School Board faces allegations of holding inappropriate closed door meetings, the Sun-Sentinel reports.

Superintendents: Jason Wysong, a deputy superintendent of Seminole County schools, will become the next superintendent of Manatee County schools, the Bradenton Herald reports. • The Duval County School Board discussed hiring an in-house interim superintendent while it seeks a permanent replacement for Diana Greene, who is retiring in June, the Florida Times-Union reports. • The Escambia County School Board fired superintendent Tim Smith in a surprise vote, the Pensacola News-Journal reports. Smith suggested the board is the problem.

Security: The St. Johns County school district’s new remote panic alert system has been sending false alarms, WJXT reports.

Title IX: Florida education commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. sent a letter opposing proposed changes to federal Title IX gender discrimination rules, and has been joined by other states’ top education officials including Wyoming superintendent Megan Degenfelder, Cheyenne Post reports.

Follow what’s happening in Tampa Bay schools

Follow what’s happening in Tampa Bay schools

Subscribe to our free Gradebook newsletter

We’ll break down the local and state education developments you need to know every Thursday.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Other school news

Hands-on education: Some Tampa Bay area high schools are using a business-centered curriculum from Junior Achievement to focus their students’ lessons on real-world issues. The program’s effect on student academic performance remains unclear.

Turnaround schools: The State Board of Education gave the Escambia County school district two days to reach an agreement for a charter school to take control of long struggling Warrington Middle, WUWF reports. Later that day, the school board signed a contract with Charter Schools USA, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

From the police blotter ... Three Sarasota County schools were placed on lockdown amid a series of suspicious threatening phone calls, the Herald-Tribune reports. • The director of security at a Lee County private school was arrested on charges of weapon possession by a convicted felon, WINK reports.

In higher ed

New College graduating seniors are planning an alternate graduation ceremony. They’re opposed to the ceremony featuring Scott Atlas, a former COVID-19 adviser to Donald Trump.

The St. Petersburg College faculty union has filed a wage complaint against the school administration. The union says faculty members were left out of a round of raises that all other employees received.

The University of Miami’s provost is stepping down. He’s the second top official to exit the school’s administration this spring, the Miami Herald reports.

Don’t miss a story. Yesterday’s roundup is just a click away.

Before you go ... For today’s musical interlude, some Indian classical from Anoushka Shankar.

• • •

Sign up for the Gradebook newsletter!

Every Thursday, get the latest updates on what’s happening in Tampa Bay area schools from Times education reporter Jeffrey S. Solochek. Click here to sign up.