Dozens of students, parents, and members of the LGBTQ community gathered at a Florida school board meeting on Tuesday to demand the resignation of Moms for Liberty co-founder Bridget Ziegler. The meeting, which lasted for nearly three hours, was dominated by public comments focused on Ziegler’s refusal to step down in light of her and her husband’s involvement in a three-way sex scandal.
During the meeting, several students spoke about the impact of Ziegler’s anti-LGBTQ rhetoric on themselves and others in the district. One teenager shared that they felt the need to pretend to be straight in order to avoid harassment and hate speech. Another 12-year-old student, who identified as queer and binary, expressed their fear that Ziegler’s policies would make it harder for them to learn because of who they are.
Residents also criticized Ziegler for her anti-LGBTQ views and opposition to diversity, equity, and inclusion policies. John Smeallie, a retired deputy superintendent of Maryland schools, called Ziegler a hypocrite and accused her of belittling and marginalizing LGBTQ individuals. He also pointed out the irony of Ziegler’s attacks on the LGBTQ community while potentially being a part of it herself.
Despite the impassioned pleas from the community, Ziegler remained unmoved and used her comment period to discuss unrelated topics such as school lunches and teacher retention. The school board had previously passed a resolution asking Ziegler to step down, but she has refused to do so.
Currently, only Governor Ron DeSantis has the power to suspend Ziegler for alleged violations, but the rest of the right-leaning board opposes this action. Many speakers at the meeting criticized board members for failing to act in the district’s best interest and accused them of placating the community without taking real action against Ziegler.
The controversy surrounding Ziegler has had significant consequences for her and her husband’s reputations. Christian Ziegler was removed from his position as party chair for the Florida GOP, and Bridget lost her position with the Leadership Institute. The conservative group Moms for Liberty also distanced themselves from Bridget after initially defending her.
While the community continues to demand Ziegler’s resignation, it remains to be seen whether Governor DeSantis will take action. In the meantime, the Sarasota community will continue to fight for a school board that prioritizes the well-being of all students and promotes inclusivity and acceptance..