In her first year teaching at Winding Waters K-8 school in Florida, Jenna Barbee showed her 5th-grade class a Disney film she felt connected to their class discussion of ecosystems. She obtained permission slips from each student for the showing of a PG movie in class and thought nothing more of it.
A 5th Grade Teacher, A Disney Film, and ‘Don’t Say Gay’
The Disney movie the Florida teacher showed the class is called Strange World. The movie premiered in 2022 and follows a family of explorers trying to save their environment while meeting strange creatures and learning to bridge their differences.
The issue? The sexual orientation of one of the main characters. Teenager Ethan Clade is gay and has a crush on another male character. One of Barbee’s student mentioned Strange World to their mother, who happened to be a member of the school board.
Jenna Barbee’s actions were immediately reported to the Florida Department of Education and the school system also opened an investigation. While it may not have been her intention, exposure to an openly gay character goes directly against efforts by Florida Gov Ron DeSantis to keep public school teachers from instructing on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Hernando County School District Closes Their Investigation into 5th-grade Teacher
Teacher Jenna Barbee received a slap on the wrist from the school district which closed its investigation by saying,
The investigation was completed regarding the parent complaint. You had the PG(-rated movies) approval forms for all of the students and had connected the movie to the curriculum being taught. You are reminded … that you must seek and receive administrative approval before showing a film or video.
From the 2022/2023 Hernando School District Staff Handbook:
All electronic media (Videos, CDs, DVDs, etc.) used in the classroom must be related to the curriculum being taught, be grade level appropriate and must be approved by school administration prior to viewing by students.
Barbee will finish out the year, but has no plans to return to this school district. She cites “politics and the fear of not being able to be who you are” as her decision to leave, though she claims she resigned a week before the Strange World incident.
The school board’s investigation has yet to conclude.