A Florida school tried to cover up yearbook photos of its students’ “Don’t Say Gay” walkout

Administrators wanted to slap stickers over photos of a student protest. The students protested.

People attend the Miami Beach Pride through Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida, USA, 10 April 2022....

The passage of Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill hasn’t come without pushback from the students it claims to protect. At Lyman High School in central Florida, students held a walkout in March in protest of the bill, photos of which were captured in the yearbook. In response, the school said it wouldn’t distribute yearbooks until images of the protests were removed.

The images in question are featured in a “Making Our Voices Heard” spread. It includes pictures of students holding rainbow flags and a “love is love” sign. NBC News reported that on Monday, Lyman’s principal, Michael Hunter, said in a statement that the “pictures and descriptions” should’ve been “caught earlier in the review process.”

“Rather than reprinting the yearbook at substantial cost and delay, we have elected to cover that material that is out of compliance with board policy so that yearbooks can be distributed as soon as possible,” Hunter added in his statement.

How did the school plan to cover these images? With stickers.

Yep, you read that right. The yearbook’s faculty adviser Danielle Pomeranz told the Orlando Sentinel that she’s been asked to look into slapping stickers over the photos and captions that the school deems in violation of policy. Reprinting the 600 yearbooks simply wouldn’t be an option because per Pomeranz’s estimate, it would cost $45,000 to do so.

But these actions didn’t sit right with students. Skye Tiedemann, one of the yearbook’s editors-in-chief, told the Sentinel, “This really shouldn’t be happening because all we did as journalists was document what was happening at our school on our campus. To have that covered up isn’t right. ... This is censorship.” In response, students began using #StopTheStickers across social media.

Since then, supporters quickly took ahold of the hashtag. On Twitter, state Rep. Carlos Smith (D), the first openly LGBTQ+ Latinx person elected to the Florida legislature, wrote, “This censorship is a direct result of the law these students were protesting. #WeWillNotBeErased in this so-called ‘free state.’”

The school itself maintains that it doesn’t have issues with any of the imagery shown. School district spokesman Michael Lawrence told NBC News that the yearbook includes imagery of students at a Pride march and rainbow flags on other pages. But the spread could be taken as Lyman endorsing the student’s walkout, which goes against school board policy. “If these items were caught earlier prior to print, some simple editing/tweaking likely could’ve occurred to make that section in compliance,” Lawrence told the outlet.

Some students, however, questioned that narrative. Tiedemann told local outlet WFTV 9, “We’ve had other walkouts shown in yearbooks in the past, and they have not been covered [up]. It’s just we’re very particular with what we put in the yearbook, and to have it covered and silence the voices of our gay students, it’s just so upsetting.”

In response to pushback, the Seminole County school board recently voted not to cover up the spread with stickers. Instead, the administration and the school district’s legal team to “review a statement that they can approve so they can create a sticker that could be added to the yearbook page so it would be in compliance with school board policy,” per WFTV 9.