A Seminole County high school is covering up yearbook photos of students protesting Florida’s so-called “don’t say gay” bill, a move that the publication’s staffers call censorship.
Lyman High School’s yearbook features photos of students holding rainbow flags and a “love is love” sign during a walkout protest in March.
But school officials delayed distributing the yearbooks Monday and determined that certain pictures and descriptions “did not meet school board policy,” Michael Hunter, the school’s principal, said in a recorded message.
“Rather than reprinting the yearbook at substantial cost and delay, we have elected to cover the material that is out of compliance with board policy so that yearbooks can be distributed as soon as possible,” he said.
Danielle Pomeranz, the yearbook’s faculty adviser, said she was told to check into placing stickers over photos and captions of the walkout protest.
Students who worked on the yearbook have launched a social media campaign called #stopthestickers.
“This really shouldn’t be happening because all we did as journalists was document what was happening at our school on our campus,” said Skye Tiedemann, one of the yearbook’s editors-in-chief. “To have that covered up isn’t right. … This is censorship.”
Hunter’s message didn’t explain which material in the yearbook was objectionable or why, but he said distribution was delayed to ensure the yearbook meets all Seminole County School Board policies, “particularly as it pertains to non-school sponsored events contained in school publications.”
“Unfortunately, the pictures and descriptions that depicted this event did not meet school board policy and were not caught earlier in the review process,” he said.
Michael Lawrence, a district spokesman, said school officials decided to cover the photos and captions because they thought the descriptions gave the impression the walkout was a school-sponsored event when it was not.
The yearbook includes a page highlighting the school’s gay-straight alliance club, which met board policy and will not be covered, he said.
About 600 yearbooks were ordered, and it would cost about $45,000 to have them reprinted, Pomeranz said.
Earlier this year, students across Florida walked out of class to protest HB 1557, officially titled Parental Rights in Education but known as the “don’t say gay” bill by opponents. The law bans classroom instruction on “sexual orientation or gender identity” for grades kindergarten through three or in a manner that is not “age appropriate.”
Opponents said the law is vague and will have a chilling effect on the discussion of LGBTQ topics in schools.
Madi Koesler, a college volunteer who took the photos, said censoring the yearbook would validate those fears.
“They are having their voices taken away from them,” said Koesler, a student at Seminole State College and a recent Lyman High School graduate. “As someone who took the photo, it is heartbreaking to see this. This is exactly what they were protesting, and now it is happening to them. It is so disappointing.”
School officials didn’t raise concerns about coverage of a student demonstration published in the yearbook in 2018, Koesler said. That event expressed support for victims of the Parkland school shooting that killed 17 students and staff.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 1988 landmark case that educators could prevent the publication of articles about teenage pregnancy and divorce in a school-sponsored newspaper. Justices wrote, “A school need not tolerate student speech that is inconsistent with its basic educational mission, even though the government could not censor similar speech outside the school.”
Educators can exercise editorial control in school-sponsored publications as long as their actions are “reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns,” the justices wrote.
But Clay Calvert, a University of Florida law and journalism professor, said he thinks blocking the photos could raise First Amendment issues for the district.
“I don’t see any legitimate teaching concerns here,” Calvert said. “The speech that is being censored is political speech that is at the heart of the First Amendment.”
A Florida man with no flying experience who kept his cool while landing a small plane says “the hand of God” was with him after the pilot collapsed at the controls.
Darren Harrison told NBC’s “Today” show that he was relaxing with his feet up in the back of the single-engine Cessna after a fishing trip in the Bahamas when the pilot told him and another passenger: “Guys, I gotta tell you I don’t feel good.”
“He said, ‘I’ve got a headache and I’m fuzzy and I just don’t feel right,” the 39-year-old flooring salesman said. “And I said, ‘What do we need to do?’ and at that point he didn’t respond at all.”
Harrison climbed into the cockpit and saw that the plane was diving, and fast.
“All I saw when I came up to the front was water out the right window and I knew it was coming quick. At that point I knew if I didn’t react, that we would die.”
Harrison said he reached over the unconscious pilot and grabbed the controls, slowly pulling back the stick to level the plane. It was a common-sense move, he said.
“I knew if I went up and yanked that, the airplane would stall,” he said. “And I also knew that at the rate we were going, we were going way too fast, and it would probably rip the wings off of the airplane.”
That, he said, was “the scariest part of the whole story.”
With help from the other passenger — a friend of the pilot, he said — they moved him out of the pilot’s seat. Harrison jumped in and put on the headset, only to realize that the wires were frayed and the plug was gone. So he got the headset from the other passenger.
He reached an air traffic controller in Florida. Asked if he knew the plane’s position, Harrison said the GPS was out so he had no idea.
According to Flight Aware, the plane had taken off earlier Tuesday from Marsh Harbour International Airport in the Bahamas.
The air traffic controller then asked what he could see.
“I see the state of Florida and I see a small airport,” Harrison told him.
At this point, he refused to let fear set in.
“When I was flying and saw the state of Florida, at that second I knew I’m going to land there,” he said. “I don’t know what the outcome’s going to be, I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but I knew I’m going to have to land this airplane because there’s no other option.”
Harrison said he had to get home to his wife Britney, seven months pregnant with their first child.
“People said what if you had crashed and died? You could have at least called her, you could have reached out to her, you had time,” Harrison said. “In my mind I knew I wasn’t going to die, and the thought never crossed my mind to call and tell my wife ‘bye.’”
Air Traffic Controller Robert Morgan, who coached Harrison into a safe landing at Palm Beach International Airport, told him the runway would appear bigger and bigger as he approached.
At around 200 feet, Harrison said Morgan told him he needed to slow down.
“At that point I told the other guy, hey take the throttle and dump it on the floor. Just dump it on the floor as far as it will go,” Harrison said.
The plane touched down safely.
“I said thank you for everything and I threw the headset on the dash and I said the biggest prayer I’ve ever said in my life,” Harrison recalled.
“That’s when all the emotion set in,” he added.
He said he offered up a “thankful prayer for the safety and everything that had happened. But the last part of the prayer and the strongest part was for the guy in the back because I knew it was not a good situation.”
The pilot was taken to a hospital and is expected to be released early this week, Harrison said.
Harrison then called his wife, who wasn’t expecting to hear from him so early. She said that last year, her sister was six months pregnant when her husband died, “so honestly I took a deep breath and prepared myself for it not to be him on the other line.”
“I told myself, “God we can’t do this again. I don’t think I could do it again. And thankfully we didn’t have to.”
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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WEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) – A shed caught on fire and crews stopped the spread of the fire, as it was inching closer and closer to a South Florida home.
The crackle of flames ripped through a backyard shed, and it was caught on cell phone video. Fire crews were luckily in the neighborhood when they witnessed the smoke before 911 was even dialed.
“When we arrived, we found heavy fire in the rear of the structure,” said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Rogelio Vandamas, “multiple fences and sheds on fire.”
First responders believe a tree hit a power line and sparked the flames in between several homes off of Northwest Second Street near 76th Avenue in West Miami-Dade. The flames seem as if they jumped from the tree to the fence line.
The blaze caused a shed to catch fire, which sent neighbors into a panic as the flames burned only inches from a woman’s home.
Her son was on the phone with her as he raced down from Pembroke Pines to make sure she was OK.
“I was on the phone with my mom, and all I started hearing was ‘fire, fire,’ and then the line went down,” said Sean. “All I could imagine is my mom on fire, because all I heard was, ‘fire, fire.’”
Burned ash and a scorched tree is all that was left for neighbors to clean up.
Luckily, no one was injured.
“Try not to plant trees under power lines, particularly tress that are going to grow tall,” said Vandamas. “If they do have trees near the power lines, they should contact FPL, so they could come and be evaluated and see if the tree needs to be trimmed.”
A pet was also retrieved from the fire and has been reunited with their owner.
Copyright 2022 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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