BROOKSVILLE — A Hernando County elementary school teacher says she is under investigation after showing a Disney movie to her students.

At the May 9 School Board meeting, Winding Waters K-8 teacher Jenna Lynn Barbee spoke out during the public comment portion of the meeting about how she had been advised of a Florida Department of Education investigation into her actions in showing an unauthorized movie, “Strange World,” to students.

Her situation has caused a social media storm and has made global news, with outlets including the BBC, NPR, CNN and USA Today headlining the incident.


What got her in trouble is that one of the characters in the animated film is openly gay.

One of the students in the class shown the movie is a child of Hernando County School Board member Shannon Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was elected to the school board last fall, endorsed by the conservative group Moms for Liberty. She has argued there is “smut” and “porn” on schools’ library shelves and has asked for books to be removed.

Rodriguez has also called DOE about other issues in the district and complained of liberal political agendas.

During public comment, Barbee repeatedly said she was a first-year teacher and knew she had made mistakes and learned from them.

“Shannon (Rodriguez), an elected official, said, ‘You have a hard job and I’m not here to make it any harder,’” Barbee said. “Yet she has done her best to get me removed from the classroom for showing a Disney movie.”

The gay character in the movie, Barbee said, is only shown for 2 minutes and 30 seconds out of an hour and 45 minutes.

“There’s no sexualization or inappropriate content,” Barbee said, yet she said Rodriguez came to the school and took her away from her students to tell them “how bad and how wrong I was. I was showing a movie about earth to my students because that’s our current lesson in science. Now all the students had to be interviewed about the kind of teacher I am, and what exactly does that show them?”

Barbee accused Rodriguez of using her situation to promote Rodriguez’s “political agenda.”

“I thought she came to the school as a concerned parent, and I had learned a lesson about being cautious with the material I showed,” she said.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, said that if there’s a group with a political agenda and more, it’s the minority of teachers who she said show up at school board meetings wearing buttons and being vocal.


“You’re deflecting the real issue. You showed a movie that wasn’t sanctioned school material, thus stripping the innocence of my 10-year-old, not your 10-year-old. I did not give you that right. It’s my child,” Rodriguez said. “So you, right along with the rest of the pack that have been coming forward speaking, you want to be coddled after creating a situation. Well, unfortunately, Mrs. Barbee, it does not work that way.

“And some of you, while you may not feel a PG movie is not of utmost importance, know that this is only one example of your children being exposed to controversial issues that have no place in schools.”

Barbee chose to show the movie without approval, Rodriguez said. The real victims are the children, whose teacher “open(ed) a door … for conversations that have no place in our classrooms.”

Disney drama

According to Disney, “Strange World” “follows a legendary family of explorers, the Clades, who must set aside their differences as they embark on a journey to a mysterious subterranean land inhabited by surreal lifeforms, in order to save a miracle plant Pando that is their society's source of energy.”

The movie is rated PG for “action/peril and some thematic elements,” according to the Motion Picture Association of America.

It didn’t fare well at the box office and is available for streaming on Disney+.

The conflict comes amid a long-running feud between Disney and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who pushed a bill known as the Parental Rights in Education act last year and expanded it this year. Disney opposed the bill, which critics came to call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, because of the potential chilling effect on classroom speech relating to gender and sexual orientation.

Parents are tired of the indoctrination and more being imposed by some in the schools, said Monty Floyd of Moms for Liberty in his public comment.

“Our growth locally and nationally is because parents are fed up with the attacks on parental rights and the efforts of political activists — a very vocal and unstable minority — in and out of our schools, who groom, indoctrinate and otherwise target our children,” he said. “Parents, grandparents, moms, dads and community members, i.e., the actual majority in this county, are fed up with the politicalization in our schools by ‘woke,’ far-left mobs. The very same mob that shows up to intimidate parents, attack certain board members while screeching about how it’s their right to talk pronouns, gender, sex and other topics with minors.”

We’ve lost the real purpose of sending a child to school, Rodriguez said.

“We send them there to learn reading, math, science, history. As a parent it’s my job to teach my child about the birds and the bees in relationships, and for me to decide at what age I want to embark on those conversations,” she said. “By not following policy and procedure, Miss Barbee stripped me of my right as a parent, to have to have those conversations prematurely. My daughter is 10, and I believe that she should be 10 until she is 11.

“At 10, we are not promoting romantic relationships for our children.”

While blasting some teachers’ union members for showing up and making a “mockery” of the recent Fox Chapel situation and making children pawns in the crossfire of their political agenda, Rodriguez reiterated her support for teachers.

“Please don’t think that I don’t believe in you, that I don’t have immense respect for you. I absolutely do,” she said. “Don’t allow this minority that has come forward and put themselves on display to convince you otherwise.”