PRIDE — Heather McLean, center in black, at a DeLand Pride clothing swap in August. PHOTO BY ELLA SHEPHERD


Students in the state of Florida have returned to school this year under distressing circumstances. With the passing of HB 1069, students’ freedom of speech has been curtailed by disallowing them the use of their preferred name or nickname (without written parental consent) or the use of their preferred pronouns.

In addition, the discussion of any subject having to do with gender has become rife with conflict and uncertainty. This is because the new law expands the ban on classroom instruction of sexual orientation or gender identity, and leaves those terms largely undefined and vague.

Teachers (whose jobs may be at stake) and students are left with the unsettling feeling of not knowing what they can or cannot say in their classrooms. Teachers may even be forced to inform parents of a student’s actual or perceived LGBTQ+ status, regardless of whether the student is comfortable with this, which can potentially lead to unsafe situations. Once a safe place for many young people, especially those who had not felt accepted at home, classrooms are now a place of added anxiety.

We’ve seen many cases of families leaving Florida due to multiple anti-LGBTQ+ laws including HB 1069, seeking more accepting situations out of state.

In addition to the infringement on students’ and teachers’ freedom of speech, the new law also expands book bans by requiring schools to immediately remove access to a book that has been challenged by even a single county resident (not necessarily someone who has a child in public school).

Not only does this allow a single objector to overrule other parents’ rights to ensure their children have access to educational materials, but there is also currently no process for these materials to get back onto shelves after a complaint is resolved.

In Volusia County last school year, 19 books were challenged, and only one was banned. The other 18 books are still in a state of limbo until the county defines a process to get them back into circulation.

These anti-LGBTQ+ measures are a thinly veiled attempt to isolate and intimidate LGBTQ+ young people and erase the LGBTQ+ experience and history from existence. Without representation and support, these children are being callously endangered with an increased risk of bullying, violence, and self-harm.

In an effort to respond constructively (and in honor of the annual Banned Books Week sponsored by organizations such as the American Library Association), Support Volusia and DeLand Pride are partnering with the DeLand Quakers as well as other local businesses and community organizations to hold a book giveaway for all ages 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, at Sidecar Home Market in Downtown DeLand.

The books given away at this event will emphasize topics surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion that are being stifled in schools by these harmful laws. Book donations are accepted between now and Sept. 20 inside the lobby of The West Volusia Beacon and at Sidecar Home Market.

Please keep an eye out for more donation boxes coming soon to businesses near you. Stay tuned to for updates, and reach out to with any questions about how best to donate.

— Heather McLean, of DeLand, is president-elect of DeLand Pride.


  1. What a stupid law. How does it help anyone? Is this how we are to love everyone the way we should? By putting them in danger and not respecting them. What a shame.


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