May 25, 2022 - Politics

Graduating teen uses curly hair to attack widely criticized law

Pine View School graduate and class president Zander Moricz delivers his commencement speech at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota on Sunday. Photo: Dan Wagner/Herald-Tribune/USA TODAY Network

Zander Moricz's graduation speech drew nationwide attention to his fight against a controversial Florida law without ever mentioning it.

Driving the news: Moricz's speech — about the law proponents dubbed the “Parental Rights in Education Act” but critics call “Don’t Say Gay” — went viral this week after he spoke instead about his curly hair.

  • "This characteristic is probably the first thing you think of when you think of me as a human being," Moricz told the crowd at Osprey's Pine View School for the Gifted on Sunday, lifting his graduation cap off his head. "I … have curly hair."

"I used to hate my curls," he went on. "I spent mornings and nights embarrassed of them, trying desperately to straighten this part of who I am."

  • "But the daily damage of trying to fix myself became too much to endure. So, while having curly hair in Florida is difficult — due to the humidity — I decided to be proud of who I was and started coming to school as my authentic self."
  • "There are going to be so many kids with curly hair who need a community like Pine View and they won't have it. Instead, they'll try to fix themselves so they can exist in Florida's humid climate."

Flashback: Moricz, Pine View's first openly gay class president, spoke out on Twitter earlier this month, saying his principal threatened to cut the mic during his speech if Moricz mentioned his role as the youngest publicly named plaintiff in in the suit against the recently signed law.

What he's saying: Moricz and his curls went on "Good Morning America" Monday, saying the law has changed school cultures across the state before even going into effect.

  • "It's surreal and it's heartbreaking," he said. "The Don't Say Gay law makes it so that people cannot be good administrators. It turns school settings into vehicles of oppression and it works really well. That's what's scary. And that's what happened here."

Go deeper: Watch his full speech

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note that Moricz is the youngest publicly named plaintiff in the lawsuit (not just the youngest plaintiff).

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