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Parents' rights 'are gone' when children are in 'public school,' Florida teacher under investigation says

Winding Waters K-8 (Photo: Hernando County School District)
Winding Waters K-8 (Photo: Hernando County School District)
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A Florida teacher facing a state investigation after showing students a movie featuring an LGBTQ+ character is arguing that parents give up their rights to their children's education upon entering the public school system.

Jenna Barbee, a fifth grade teacher in the Hernando County School District (HCSD), appeared on CNN This Morning Tuesday. The appearance comes as Barbee is facing backlash for showing students the Disney movie "Strange World." The movie, while not centered around LGBTQ+ themes, features an openly gay character.

Public school teachers in Florida are prohibited from instructing students on gender identity and sexual orientation through high school, unless required by existing state standards or as part of optional sex education. Educators who violate the policy are subject to suspension or losing their teaching licenses.

Barbee's actions came to light when a HCSD mother expressed concerns at a recent school board meeting, saying it is "not a teacher's job to impose beliefs" on children.

"What she's missing and what these parents are missing is that they're not in the school system," Barbee said in response Tuesday. "These conversations, these doors that she's talking about, telling me that I'm stripping her rights as a parent -- those rights are gone when your child is in the public school system because there are students talking about these things."

READ MORE | Parents, advocacy groups weigh in on Florida classroom movie controversy

Barbee added that she believes the mother is "ignorant" and "has not come and volunteered" in HCSD, otherwise she would be aware that conversations on various topics, including sexual orientation, are occurring.

Barbee defended herself in a six-minute video posted to TikTok last week, saying that the movie was relevant to her classroom's current lesson plan on the environment. The first-year teacher is now accusing both a HCSD school board member and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis's administration of pursuing a "targeted attack" on teachers.

"They're trying to strip individuality and diversity to fit one common agenda, and it's ruining everything," Barbee said Tuesday. "It's not what America stands for."

Crisis in the Classroom (CITC) reached out to Barbee for comment, but did not receive a response prior to publication. This story will be updated if a response is received.

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A HCSD spokesperson told CITC that the district is still "investigating the matter" and will not be providing further comment.

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