A Florida elementary school teacher is reportedly under investigation by the state Department of Education after she showed students a Disney movie that featured a gay character.
Jenna Barbee, a fifth grade teacher at Winding Waters in Hernando County, was reported by a student’s parent after screening the movie “Strange World” as a “brain break” in between students’ standardized testing, she said in a TikTok video Sunday.
Barbee said she thought the animated movie was “perfect” because her students had been studying earth science and ecosystems and the PG movie is about a family of explorers navigating an alien world. All of her students’ parents signed a consent form for their children to watch PG movies and she didn’t think there would be an issue.
“Is a character in the movie LGBTQ? Absolutely. Is that why I showed it? No,” Barbee said. “I’m not pushing anything, just being accepting. Does that have anything to do with why I showed it? Not in the slightest. The LGBTQ aspect of the movie, they’re harmless, it’s just a talked-about crush and it’s only a couple lines.”
A district representative confirmed to HuffPost Monday that the state’s DOE is investigating the incident but that it is not being referenced as “indoctrination,” as Barbee said she has been accused of.
DOE press secretary Cassie Palelis said the department cannot confirm or deny an investigation due to Florida statutes.
“The Office of Professional Practices Services (PPS) receives a large volume of complaints regarding alleged misconduct of educators and follows a specific process to investigate these complaints,” Palelis said in an email. “PPS may investigate a matter to gather details and any additional information about the alleged misconduct. This does not mean there is any presumption of guilt during the fact-finding phase.”
Barbee said she is under investigation for showing the PG-rated animated Disney movie "Strange World" (shown above).
The parent was identified by the Tallahassee Democrat as Shannon Rodriguez, who was elected to the school board last fall and was endorsed by the right-wing group Moms for Liberty. Rodriguez was separately in the news last month for reportedly trying to remove books from school shelves that she labeled “smut” and “porn.”
Barbee said the parent has been “on a rampage to get rid of every form of representation in schools” and that because of this investigation, her students have been pulled out of her classroom to be independently questioned by a state investigator. This has been traumatic for her students, she said.
Florida public school teachers are prohibited from teaching about gender and sexual identity due to the Parental Rights in Education Act — dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — which was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) last year.
Rodriguez did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.