In the past year, Disney has been no stranger to controversy. One may argue that The Walt Disney Company has never been featured in so many news stories since its conception 100 years ago. In addition to an ongoing feud with Governor Ron DeSantis, they have faced criticism for including LGBTQ content and characters in their movies and TV shows, and they have received pushback over theme Park upkeep, a falling stock price, and recent changes made to Disney Plus.
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The Strange Controversy
However, a Florida teacher recently found herself trapped in a Disney-based controversy of her own. The fifth grade teacher, Jenna Barbee, showed her class the Disney film Strange World (2022). For those unfamiliar with the film (which is many, considering it bombed at the box office), it follows the story of a family as they try to save their world from destruction.
The Disney movie also contains an openly gay character-a teenage boy who has a crush on another boy. Although the subplot of the LGBTQ romance is not a main storyline, it has garnered criticism and praise (depending on who you ask).
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When Jenne Barbee showed the film to her class, it was to a select group of students after they had finished an exam. She stated that she chose the Disney film Strange World (2022) for its ecological message, not to push a social agenda.
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A New World
Barbee was reported to the Florida Department of Education after a student told her mom, a school board member. Parent and school board member Shannon Rodriguez then reported the movie’s showing to state education officials. It spawned investigations by the school system and the Florida Department of Education. Barbee’s showing of the film may violate the new Parental Rights in Education (“Don’t Say Gay”) law, which prohibits sexual orientation and gender identity content for children of a certain age.
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The school has since stopped investigating the Florida teacher showing the PG-rated Disney movie. However, the Florida Department of Education’s investigation is still open.
Barbee has yet to retain an attorney and will not return to the district next year.