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A Sarasota student finds a way to keep activism part of his graduation speech

Pine View School Graduation
Bailey LeFever
WUSF Public Media
Zander Moricz gives his senior class president speech at Pine View's commencement.

Pine View graduate Zander Moricz, one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state's new Parental Rights in Education law, was warned to keep his activism out of his speech.

Pine View School administrators warned senior class president Zander Moricz to not discuss his activism during a speech at Sunday's commencement in Sarasota.

The gay student, who is part of a lawsuit against the state, instead creatively alluded to his coming-out journey while speaking to roughly 200 fellow graduates, friends and family.

Instead of using LGBTQ terms, Moricz told the audience at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall about being different because he has "curly hair." He said kids need a welcoming place like he had Pine View, or they may change just to fit in.

"It's because of the love I'd drawn from this community that I came out to my family," he said. "Now I'm happy. Now I'm happy. And that is what is at stake."

"There are going to be so many kids with curly hair who need a community like Pine View and they won't have one," he said. "Instead, they'll try to fix themselves so that they can exist in Florida's humid climate."

Moricz is one of plaintiffs suing the state over the recently passed "Parental Rights in Education" law, which critics call "Don't Say Gay." The law halts the mention of gender identity or sexual orientation in primary grades, and the mention of it "in a manner that is not age appropriate" in older grades.

READ MORE: A Sarasota student fears the so-called 'Don't Say Gay' law will harm LGBTQ kids' school experience

Equality Florida, families and other parties filed a lawsuit against the state, saying the new law violates constitutional rights.

Administrators from the Osprey school allowed Moricz to complete his entire speech, which came near the end of the graduation ceremony.

Bailey LeFever is a reporter focusing on education and health in the greater Tampa Bay region.