(NEW YORK)– In response to Florida high school student Jack Petocz’s announcement that his school has imposed disciplinary action against him for organizing protests this year against the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, now law, PEN America issued the following statement from Jonathan Friedman, director of the Free Expression and Education program:

“By going back on their word and imposing a red mark on Jack Petocz’s disciplinary record, the Flagler Palm Coast High School administration appears bent on retaliating against him for organizing the walkout against the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. This is unconscionable. Jack exercised his right to protest as a citizen, and he led the walkout with the school’s approval. No student ought to be intimidated or punished by school authorities for their political speech, and the school already told him he would not be disciplined. This is especially troubling alongside news of other efforts to censor or intimidate students raising their voices for LGBTQ+ rights across Florida. The leaders of Flagler Palm Coast High School should remove this infraction from his record so that he can run for class president just like any other student.”

Petocz is PEN America’s 2022 PEN/Benenson Courage Award recipient. He will receive the award at the PEN America Literary Gala in New York City on May 23.