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Hernando County teacher under investigation for showing Disney movie with gay character responds

Tampa Bay teacher says she's being investigated by the Florida Department of Education after she sho
Tampa Bay teacher being investigated by Florida Department of Education after showing Disney movie 02:28

HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. (Tampa Bay Now) - Hernando County teacher Jenna Barbee says her career is on the line after she showed her fifth-grade class a Disney movie that had a gay character in it. This prompted a parent's complaint and an investigation by the Florida Department of Education into the Winding Waters teacher.

"They've questioned me and they've questioned students," said Barbee. "It's just a mess. This was not even a topic that my students even noticed or cared about because it's already an accepted topic in the classroom."

Barbee took to Tik Tok over the weekend to explain. She said she played the movie to part of her class after a day of standardized testing and obtained previously signed permission slips from parents allowing students to view PG-rated movies. But a parent – who is also a board member for the Hernando County School District – complained and reported her to the Florida Department of Education, she says in the video. She also says the students have personal learning devices with access to similar information.

"The students have 1 to 1 devices," said Barbee in an interview. "They're able to have access to all of this information already. So, this is a common theme that's talked about already so it was not thought anything of until it got brought this much light and as much attention."

Last year, Governor DeSantis signed legislation that bans instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms. The law recently expanded from banning this instruction in kindergarten through third grade classrooms to twelfth grade. Teachers who violate the state policy can be suspended or have their teaching licenses revoked.

The teacher addressed the school board last week, saying the movie was tied to lesson plans on environment and ecosystems and was in no way sexual.

"I am a Hernando County Schools graduate, a first-year teacher and a first-time mom," explained the teacher. "I have had to learn so much in this past school year. My parents want me not to come here saying it would make the paper and that my old mistakes to be brought up. Well, guess what? I've made a lot of mistakes."

School Board member Shannon Rodriguez, who made the complaint, responded saying Barbee broke school policy because she did not get the specific movie approved by school administration.

"There are protocols that are supposed to be in place," said Rodriguez during the board meeting. "This is concerning the movie that was played for my daughter in her classroom. Miss Barbee chose to show a PG movie without approval."

The Department of Education said any complaints made will be reviewed and an attorney will provide a recommendation to the commissioner for next steps.

The Hernando County School District confirmed they have an active investigation into the matter but provided no further comment.

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