A school teacher is under investigation by the Florida Department of Education after she showed the class the Disney animated movie Strange World.
Jenna Barbee, a teacher at Hernando County’s Winding Waters K-8 school, went viral on TikTok sharing her story on the social media platform.
“I am the teacher that’s under investigation with the Florida Department of Education for indoctrination for showing a Disney movie,” she said in the over six-minute video.
Barbee, a first-year teacher, explained in the video that she wanted to give the students a “brain break” after a morning of standardized testing. The students were split in the afternoon between Barbee’s class and another teacher’s class into those that had finished their test and those that had not. Barbees said that all parents had signed permission slips allowing them to show PG-rated movies “with no objections to specific content.”
“The reason I was turned in is because one of the split students was a school board member’s daughter,” she explained. “That school board member is currently on a rampage to get rid of every form of representation out of our schools.”
Barbee says she ended up meeting with the school board member and says she “understood her perspective, that she really doesn’t want this shown at her house,” adding, “I never saw that perspective before, so I didn’t think it was a big deal but seeing how upset she was, I told her, ‘I understand my lesson.’”
The school board member had already reported Barbee and there was not much she could do at that point. Barbee said she chose Strange World as it relates to the curriculum about “Earth science and ecosystems and how they interact — plants, humans, animals…”
“My thought process was, what a better way to showcase all these standards along with huge lessons of overcoming differences, spreading kindness, communication and chasing your dreams,” she continued.
Strange World, which was released in 2022, features a family of explorers with voices from Gabrielle Union, Lucy Liu, Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid. Among the characters is Ethan Clade, voiced by Jaboukie Young-White, who is the first-ever out-gay character in a Disney film.
Barbee says that having an LGBTQ+ character in the film is not the reason she showed the film in class noting that she has “a lot of fifth-grade students who have come to me this year, long before showing this movie talking about how they are part of that community and it’s not a big deal to me.”
“Not pushing anything, just being accepting, that’s what I do,” she said.
Barbee says that the LGBTQ+ aspect in the movie is “harmless” and it’s only “a talked about crush” noting that “the parents in the movie kiss a lot and that wasn’t even brought up.”
“None of my students cared or batted an eye. They didn’t even know this was a big deal until the board member and the state made it a big deal,” Barbee said adding that it’s been more traumatizing to the students having an investigator interrogating them.
At a public school board meeting on May 9, board member Shannon Rodriguez called out Barbee for breaking school policy.
“It is not a teacher’s job to impose their beliefs upon a child: religious, sexual orientation, gender identity, any of the above. But allowing movies such as this assist teachers in opening a door, and please hear me, they assist teachers in opening a door for conversations that have no place in our classrooms,” Rodriguez said (via CNN). “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.”