In Tuesday's election, a controversial Florida school board member lost her seat after student activists rallied to replace her. Her removal comes during a time when Florida has become a flash point for LGBTQ+ people.
Flagler School Board member Jill Woolbright lost to challenger Sally Hunt in her first reelection bid. In 2020, Woolbright was elected to finish the term of another member who had left the board, beating her opponent with almost 60 percent of the vote. This year, however, she lost by a narrow margin: Hunt won 51 percent to her 49 percent.
Jack Petocz, 17, is a Florida student and political strategist with Gen-Z for Change, whose activism led to a mass walkout this spring to protest the state's "don't say gay" law. He tells The Advocate that he's beyond pleased with the election's outcome.
"Jill Woolbright is a radical extremist that shows no regard for the children of Flagler County," Petocz says. "In her tenure, she has attempted to minimize my community and defended people who harassed me. This victory illustrates that young people are ready to fight against injustice and won't stand idle in the name of erasure."
A year ago, Woolbright became prominent when she championed the effort to take queer nonbinary author George M. Johnson's memoir All Boys Aren't Blue out of school libraries. In addition, she filed a criminal complaint with the local sheriff's office, contending "that the mere availability of All Boys Aren't Blue is a crime," according to local news site AskFlagler.
While Woolbright gained loyal supporters among Flagler County conservatives, she had also become more polarizing than she had previously been. Gov. Ron DeSantis supported her candidacy.
However, Hunt, as well as being a parent, has extensive business experience in communications. She ran as a moderate, redirecting attention from partisan political attacks back to everyday school issues.
"I hope this trend continues across the United States and people start to prioritize local elections," Petocz says. "Love will always win, and hate will always lose."
Woolbright had not acknowledged the election results as of Wednesday morning, AskFlagler reports. However, Hunt has.
She wrote, "Flagler County, thank you so much for your votes. Thank you for putting our students and our teachers, and our staff first. I am so looking forward to a wonderful school year, and I'm so excited for our district. Thank you so much for your votes, this is a great night. Thank you," the news site reports.
Hunt will be sworn in during a ceremony in November.
All Boys Aren't Blue author George M. Johnson spoke with The Advocate about their reaction to the election results. They say they feel great about the results because Woolbright's weaponization of the police against Black queer people was dangerous.
Johnson offers a warning to other conservatives intent on silencing LGBTQ+ voices.
"I have said it numerous times that Gen-Z is not to be played with," Johnson says. "They are brilliant young minds who want to actually fix the problems of racism, anti-blackness, anti-queerness and so many other systems of oppression. They WILL be the next generation of leaders. So the current generation better start listening to their needs and wants and fast. Or like Jill. You too can be removed or replaced."