A Florida teacher is under investigation for showing the animated Disney movie Strange World to her students, after a parent complained because there is a 2SLGBTQIA+ character in the story.
The fifth-grade teacher, Jenna Barbee, says she's been accused of "indoctrinating" her students contrary to Florida's so-called "Don't Say Gay" law, which bans teachers from talking about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.
However, Barbee says she was just showing her students a Disney movie.
"I had no idea whatsoever that this was such a big deal," Barbee told CNN in a recent interview, after her TikTok about the case went viral. She added that she "just found out" that the law had been extended from early grades to all school levels. Now, she's facing an investigation that could see her suspended from her job.
Barbee explained on TikTok that parents signed permission slips at the beginning of the year allowing her to show PG movies "with no objections to specific content." However, one of her students is the daughter of a Hernando County School Board member, and Barbee's screening of Strange World got back to that parent.
"That school board member is currently on a rampage to get every form of representation out of our schools," Barbee said in her TikTok.
"I chose this movie because it relates to our curriculum. Our unit, at the time, was Earth science and ecosystems and how they interact — plants, humans, animals. So, this movie is perfect," she explained. "Is a character in the movie LGBTQ? Absolutely. Is that why I showed it? No."
I am the teacher. Here is the truth. #indoctrination #disneymovie #disney #strangeworld #viraltweet
She says the movie only has a small part that highlights the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, and her students didn't understand that it was a big deal until the school board made it so.
She says school board officials later showed up to her class for their investigation. Barbee recounts that an admin stayed in the room to watch her class as they questioned her. She further detailed that an investigator has allegedly been questioning her students individually, and didn't need a signed parent permission slip to do so.
CNN reported that the parent behind the complaint, Shannon Rodriguez, believes Barbee is "playing the victim."
“It is not a teacher’s job to impose their beliefs upon a child: religious, sexual orientation, gender identity, any of the above," Rodriguez said during a May 9 school board meeting, per CNN. "But allowing movies such as this assist teachers in opening a door, and please hear me, they assist teachers in opening a door for conversations that have no place in our classrooms."
However, as Barbee mentioned in her TikTok explainer, she's had plenty of students introduce the conversation to her all on their own.
Barbee also spoke at the school board meeting to defend herself.
“A school board member, an elected official of power, who was supposed to be nonpartisan, is allowed to present to the public that she is Christian and that God appointed her to the board," Barbee said at the meeting, per CNN. "And yet it is indoctrination that I showed a Disney movie."
Rodriguez then doubled down by saying: "As a leader in this community, I’m not going to stand by and allow this minority to infiltrate our schools … God did put me here.”
The school board sent a letter to parents addressing the incident and vowing that the movie will not be screened again, NBC 12 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.”
A spokesperson for Florida Department of Education confirmed that Barbee is under investigation, and an attorney will recommend the next steps to take.
As for Barbee, her TikTok followers seem to be on her side in the comments, and they're all telling her to also lawyer up.