SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) – The senior class president of Pine View School for the Gifted took the stand at his graduation today and delivered his graduation speech. He knew he had to tread carefully, but the student had already come up with a plan.
Zander Moricz wanted to use this time to speak about his experience as a gay student or criticize House Bill 1557, which supporters call the “Parental Rights in Education” …colloquially known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. However, Moricz had been warned that his microphone would be cut off if he made any mention or reference to that law. After organizing a student walkout against the then-pending legislation and a similar protest in downtown Sarasota he decided to deliver his speech in a creative way.
He spoke about his curly hair. His curly hair was a part of who he is. So, he learned to embrace it.
Moricz said the principal told him such comments would be “polarizing and not school appropriate.” He said his face turned red. “I’m told that my human rights are controversial and therefore not appropriate for school setting. I’m the class president and my human rights are not appropriate for my speech at my school graduation.”
“I used to hate my curls I spent mornings and nights embarrassed of them trying desperately to straighten this part of who I am but the daily damage of trying to fix myself became too much to endure,” Moricz said.
Critics say the law’s language is vague and could have far-reaching implications for students, potentially even those who have no connection to LGBTQ issues.
Moricz said that he would not compromise on his principles and that he would find a way to be able to speak about his identification and the legislation and he was able to.
The dispute has garnered national attention. Moricz has appeared on MSNBC, and ABC’s “Good Moring America.” Rolling Stone magazine has profiled him; Vice.com, a digital newsmagazine, has chronicled his story.
You can also listen to ABC7′s podcast interview with Moricz right here.
The Sarasota County school district did provide a statement saying all student speeches are reviewed in advance. “Students are reminded that a graduation should not be a platform for personal political statements, especially those likely to disrupt the ceremony. Should a student vary from this expectation during the graduation, it may be necessary to take appropriate action.”
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