Florida population

Florida class president couldn’t talk about being gay in high school graduation speech – so he talked about his curly hair

Zander Moricz, 18, has been active in social justice causes as a student at Pine View School in Osprey, Florida, and led a student strike in March to protest the controversial measure that bans certain teachings on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools and goes into effect in July. He is also one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the law.

Moricz told CNN that a few weeks before his graduation, the school principal met with him and told him he couldn’t talk about the issue.
“He was always supportive of me and my identity and I was really hurt,” he said.

Moricz came out during his freshman year and was the first openly gay class president at school, so he felt responsible for responding to the controversy. He told CNN that school is the only guaranteed space children have in the state.

“When you take that one guaranteed space and make it one that victimizes an entire population of students, what you’re doing is you’re forcing kids to make the choice of not going out safely or not not come out at all,” he said.

So when it came time to speak at Sunday’s ceremony, Moricz took off his mortarboard hat and stuck his head out.

“Before, I hated my curls. I used to spend mornings and nights embarrassed by them desperately trying to straighten that part of who I am. But the daily damage of trying to fix me became too much to do,” he said. he said in his speech. “So, although it’s hard to have curly hair in Florida, because of the humidity, I decided to be proud of who I was and started coming to school in as authentic me.”

Moricz said his teachers were among the first people he turned to for advice because he didn’t have “other curly-haired people” to talk to and said the support he got at l he school had helped him grow.

“Now I’m happy. Now I’m happy, and that’s what’s at stake. There will be so many curly-haired kids, who need a community like Pine View and they won’t have one. not,” Moricz said. mentioned. “Instead, they will try to repair themselves so they can exist in Florida’s humid climate.”

After the speech, Pine View School principal Stephen Covert clapped and hugged Moricz onstage.

“We honor and celebrate the incredible diversity of thoughts, beliefs and backgrounds at our school, and champion the uniqueness of each student in their personal and educational journey,” Covert said in a statement.

Moricz said he had an emotional moment backstage after the ceremony with school officials who had been there for him over the years.

Sarasota County Schools said in a statement that school administrators review all graduation speeches before they are given and confirmed that Covert met with Moricz before submitting his speech “to remind him expectations of the ceremony”.
“As in years past, student lecturers were reminded that graduation is a community celebration and they were encouraged to tailor their remarks to reflect experiences and memories that all students could enjoy in order to better reflect all facets of the class’ achievements,” the statement read. .

Moricz was also the first student to be elected class president for all four years of high school, so he’s been thinking about that speech since he was a freshman. He ended up writing the speech which was approved by the school in about a day.

In the speech, he reminded his classmates of the times they came together against anti-black violence and to draw attention to the climate crisis, as well as a failed campaign to convince rap superstar Pitbull to perform in their school gymnasium.

He said students have power and they should use it.

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“When you waste your power, what you’re really doing is giving it to whoever already has the most power, and right now those with the most power are coming after those who have the least,” he said. he said in his speech. “We shouldn’t have to deal with this, but we will.”

Moricz told CNN the controversy surrounding his speech over the past few weeks has been pretty terrible, but he has no hard feelings toward the principal or school officials.

“I’m mad at the governor and I’m mad at our lawmakers in Florida,” Moricz told CNN. “That’s where my anger is directed, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I hold everyone a bit responsible. We’re all responsible for pushing against things like this.”

Moricz plans to attend Harvard University in the fall to study government.