As the Sarasota County School Board convened on Jan. 16, many members of the public turned out again to call for the resignation of board member Bridget Ziegler.
The meeting room was once again at overflow capacity. The speakers signed up for comment totaled 67, with the vast majority of speakers calling on Ziegler to resign.
But the embattled board member once again showed no sign of intending to resign, directing her comments at the meeting toward the activities of the school board and district.
Members of the public have accused Ziegler of hypocrisy for her admission of the three-way relationship involving another woman.
Ziegler is a co-founder of the Moms for Liberty, a conservative advocacy group which opposes certain school curricula, including those with LGBTQ+ content, and has been a proponent of the Parental Rights in Education Act, often referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
One attendee who spoke, August Ray, a senior at Sarasota High School, said board members were driving away teachers and removing their ability to support their students.
He said teachers were unable to perform actions such as using many students' preferred names or introducing books with LGBTQ+ role models.
"Good teachers are leaving our county, because you are driving them out," Ray said.
Some speakers called on the board to facilitate Ziegler's removal by sending a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis. All four of Ziegler’s fellow board members have called for her resignation.
“I too want to thank everyone for coming. I do also listen,” Ziegler said. “It’s concerning that there are certain statements, and I will overview them at the end, that are not accurate, and it concerns me, because if you go back to today’s discussion, where we’re trying to build morale and trust, it is frustrating, when it comes to academic items. I’m keeping my comments in this area — appropriate to this arena — where there isn’t accurate information out there, and I think it causes a strain, and so I want to make sure we do address those."
Ziegler requested clarifications from Superintendent Terry Connor on questions such as teacher retention, book bans and the teaching of civil rights and slavery, stating she intended to go through "a lot of the rhetoric and hyperbole."
Board members Robyn Marinelli and Tim Enos said that as board members, their priority is to follow legal mandates, and Enos said Ziegler’s actions did not legally warrant removal.
Chair Karen Rose said the day's work session had been "phenomenal," as had all work sessions since the arrival of Connor, and said she would continue to work on behalf of students.
“My focus is going to continue to be on instruction and learning, and my decisions will continue to be based on that,” she said.
Edwards thanked the public for their comments, calling once again on Ziegler to resign. He said that although books had not been banned, he was concerned self-censorship could be taking place and said there were issues with morale in the district.
“Many of (the laws) I don’t agree with, but we have to follow the law, and I seek legal counsel, and we approve them. But you know what? Laws are wrong sometimes. I would refer to slavery. I would refer to Jim Crow. I would refer to women’s reproductive health," he said.
He said he wanted to focus the discussion on the topics raised during public comment, as at some point, the discussions had been sidetracked in the direction of the work session.