‘I Was Never Trying to Indoctrinate My Students.’ Teacher at Center of Florida/Disney Fight Resigns

Hundreds speak out over Florida Disney movie controversy
Florida Teacher Jenna Barbee (right) has resigned after showing her class Disney's Strange World. Credit: Disney/LinkedIn

If you’ve ever been in a classroom after a state-wide test, you know that the kids have nothing left to give. They have been sitting at their desks trying to focus on these tests and give their best effort. That’s precisely what happened in Jenna Barbee’s fifth-grade classroom in Brooksville, Florida. So, Barbee decided to give her students a break in the afternoon and let those who had finished testing watch Disney’s Strange World (2022).

Teacher at center of Florida/Disney fight resigns

Credit: Disney

Related: Florida Officials May Questions Students Who Watched ‘Strange World’ In Class

And that’s when the trouble started. Strange World features an openly gay character. Barbee was reported to the Florida Department of Education and is under investigation for breaking the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Barbee submitted her resignation to the Brooksville School District before this incident, telling CNN she resigned because of “politics and the fear of not being able to be who you are.”

The parent who reported Barbee is a Hernando County School District Board member, Shannon Rodriguez. She has accused Barbee of “playing the victim.”

Barbee told CNN:

All of my students are asking, ‘Why is that so wrong? Why is it inappropriate? Why are you in so much trouble because of this little part of the movie?’ And I have to just keep saying, ‘No, go ask your parents about it.’ I was never trying to indoctrinate my students by showing them something that had differences and diversity. I was showing them a movie that related to our curriculum and our Earth, that also taught many valuable life lessons that also correlate to our Florida best standards.

Teacher at center of Florida/Disney fight resigns

Jenna Barbee speaks at a Hernando County School District Board Meeting. Credit: WFLA

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education Law into law in March 2022, restricting kindergarten through third-grade teachers from discussing gender and sexual orientation. The “Don’t Say Gay” law was expanded last month to include all grades in K-12 schools, which would have included Barbee’s classroom.

At a Hernando County School District Board meeting, in response to Barbee’s complaint, Rodriguez said, “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.” Rodriguez also complained that it was not a teacher’s job to open up these “types of conversations.”

After Rodriguez commented, Barbee responded, “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. And yet it is indoctrination that I showed a Disney movie.”

Teacher at center of Florida/Disney fight resigns

Hernando County School District Board Meeting. Credit: KION

The Florida State Department of Education will investigate this complaint and did not comment when asked to do so by CNN, as it is an ongoing case. Before showing the film, Barbee received signed permission slips from all families in her class, allowing her to show any Disney or Dreamworks film rated PG. Strange World is rated PG.

The ongoing feud between Florida Gov Ron DeSantis and the Walt Disney Company shows no signs of stopping. But for now, the newest front in this battle is a Florida teacher showing her class a Disney Movie, as parents complain that the PG movie infringes on parental rights by showing a character’s sexual orientation.

We will continue to update this story at Disney Fanatic.

About Rick

Rick is an avid Disney fan. He first went to Disney World in 1986 with his parents and has been hooked ever since. Rick is married to another Disney fan and is in the process of turning his two children into fans as well. When he is not creating new Disney adventures, he loves to watch the New York Yankees and hang out with his dog, Buster. In the fall, you will catch him cheering for his beloved NY Giants.

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