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Gay Florida Student Who Led Protest Can't Run for Class President

Student Who Led Don't Say Gay Protest Can't Run for Class President

The student said he was suspended for handing out Pride flags at a school protest against Florida's "don't say gay" law.

The Florida student who was suspended for leading a protest against the state's new "don't say gay" law at his high school now says the school is preventing him from running for class president.

Jack Petocz, 17, said school authorities at Flagler Palm Coast High School are saying the disciplinary actions he received for leading those protests now preclude him from running for any student body office.

"My name is Jack Petocz, and I am a 17-year-old gay student activist in Flagler County," Petocz posted to social media, detailing his efforts organizing over 500 students in the protests. These efforts included the personal purchase of over 300 Pride flags, which he distributed despite school officials classifying than as a "political statement."

Petocz, a political strategist associate with Gen-Z for Change, characterized the protests as a success, but school officials viewed things differently. He detailed how he was called into the Principal Greg Schwartz's office where he was "interrogated by staff" before he was escorted off campus and suspended from classes for four days.

Upon his return, Petocz claims he was assured no further disciplinary action would be taken against him.

"A month later, they broke this verbal agreement and placed a level 3 referral on my record," Petocz wrote in his statement. "Now, due to this high level of discipline, I am being prevented from running for senior class president. I am continuing to be punished for standing up for my identity and against widespread hatred."

Despite repeated efforts on his part, Petocz said school authorities are "simply ignoring" his emails to discuss their actions.

In an email to Florida Politics, Flagler Schools spokesperson Jason Wheeler said, "The district has no say in setting those requirements or in how those requirements are enforced," and refused further comment as he is not allowed to speak publicly about a student's disciplinary record.

For his part, Petocz has vowed to continue his battle to freely express his identity.

"I won't be discouraged by this obvious attempt to silence our voices," Petocz wrote. "We will keep protesting, we will keep speaking, we will keep fighting until no child is subjected to this kind of abuse of power."

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