Sarasota school board member walks out amid anti-gay comments

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — School board member Tom Edwards took a stand against false homophobic accusations directed at him by walking out of Tuesday night’s meeting.

Edwards told NewsNation affiliate WFLA in Tampa that he believes the homophobic slurs are part of planned attacks during meetings meant to distract from the school board’s agenda that he says is hurting public education.

“The culture war is there as a distraction,” Edwards said.

Edwards has lived with his husband in Sarasota for six years.

“And I have never, whether it’s at the theater, at the grocery store or out to dinner I have never experienced an ounce of homophobia except in the school board room invited by Bridget Ziegler,” Edwards said.

During public comment at the past two meetings, speakers have accused Edwards of being a “lawbreaker and LGBTQ groomer.”

“They’re accusing me of harming children,” Edwards said. “I say it’s them that’s causing the harm on children and I had to stand up and stop that noise.”

Edwards officially filed the paperwork on Wednesday to run for reelection in August 2024.

“His dramatic exit appeared very orchestrated and disingenuous, particularly as he launches his campaign,” Sarasota School Board Chair Bridget Ziegler said in a statement. “Make no mistake, Mr. Edwards will continue to make the next 17 months all about him and use the dais for political posturing at every chance he gets, and I will continue to call him out for his hypocrisy.”

In last year’s election, three conservative Sarasota School Board candidates easily won seats after picking up endorsements from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The governor has said he is going after more school board members that are “woke” and do not protect parental rights in several counties, including the lone dissenting vote left in Sarasota.

“I get a chance to share that I’m a good Christian,” Edwards said. “This is the perfect David and Goliath story. This David did not invite that fight, but he intends to win.”

The next Sarasota school board meeting is in two weeks.


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