Florida’s Department of Education is investigating a fifth-grade teacher for showing students Disney’s animated film “Strange World,” which features an openly gay character.
Jenna Barbee, a fifth-grade teacher at Winding Waters K-8, is undergoing an investigation for allegedly exhibiting “inappropriate conduct” after she showed “Strange World” to her students to give them a “brain break” while others were continuing their standardized testing.
“I am the teacher that’s under investigation with the Florida Department of Education for indoctrination for showing a Disney movie,” Barbee said in a TikTok video posted on Saturday.
Barbee says the film — which is Disney’s first movie with an openly gay character — aligned with students’ Earth science lesson. Barbee stated that every parent previously signed off on their children being shown PG films in class. The teacher went on to explain that a student’s parent, who’s also a board member of the Hernando County School District, named Shannon Rodriguez, reported her to the school’s principal.
After the film was shown, the school sent parents letter about the matter.
“Yesterday, the Disney movie ‘Strange World’ was shown in your child’s classroom,” the school district wrote, CNN reports. “While not the main plot of the movie, parts of the story involves a male character having and expressing feelings for another male character. In the future, this movie will not be shown. The school administration and the district’s Professional Standards Dept is currently reviewing the matter to see if further corrective action is required.”
Despite the backlash, Barbee says her students didn’t think twice about the character’s sexuality.
“I also wasn’t to bring up the fact that none of my students cared or batted an eye. They didn’t even know this was a big deal until the board member and the state made it a big deal,” Barbee said, urging listeners to be more welcoming of all backgrounds and creeds.
“This is the public education system where students from all backgrounds, cultures and religions are welcomed and should be celebrated and represented,” Barbee said. “I am not, and never would indoctrinate anyone to follow my beliefs. I will however, always be a safe person to come to that spreads the message of kindness, positivity and compassion for everyone.”
Florida has for some time been implementing anti-LGTBQIA+ legislations led by Gov. Ron DeSantis. In 2022, DeSantis signed bills into law banning teachings related to sexual orientation and gender identity, which now referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.