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Florida highschool activist Jack Petocz receives PEN honor | Life


NEW YORK (AP) — A Florida teen who grew to become a distinguished opponent of the state’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” invoice will probably be honored at subsequent month’s PEN America gala. Jack Petocz, a highschool junior, will probably be introduced the PEN/Benenson Freedom of Expression Courage Award.

“Jack Petocz is leading his generation in fighting back against book bans and legislative efforts to police how individual identities can be discussed in schools,” Suzanne Nossel, CEO of the literary and human rights group, mentioned in a press release Wednesday.

“Jack understands that the struggles he and his peers are waging for a more equitable and inclusive society cannot succeed without robust free speech protections. He has been fearless in asserting his rights and those of others in the face of political forces that are determined to meet ideas they disagree with not with reasoned argument, but with bans and punishments.”

Petocz helped arrange a statewide “Say Gay” scholar walkout in early March to protest the invoice, which forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender id in kindergarten by third grade. He was briefly suspended from Flagler Palm Coast High School for handing out LGBTQ+ pleasure flags throughout a protest there.

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Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the invoice into legislation on March 28.

Asia Kate Dillon, recognized for his or her roles in “Orange Is the New Black” and “Billions,” will current the award to Petocz. Among earlier honorees are Darnella Frazier, who recorded on video the homicide of George Floyd; and two survivors of the shootings at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Also on Wednesday, PEN introduced that actor, writer and radio and tv commentator Faith Salie will host the May 23 gala, to be held on the American Museum of Natural History. Other honorees will embody the imprisoned Ukrainian journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko, Audible founder Don Katz and writer Zadie Smith.

Oscar winner Michael Douglas will current Yesypenko’s award to the journalist’s spouse, Kateryna Yesypenko.

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