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The Sarasota School Board says Bridget Ziegler should resign

Bridget Ziegler speaks at the Moms for Liberty meeting in Philadelphia, Saturday, July 1, 2023.
Matt Rourke
Bridget Ziegler speaks at the Moms for Liberty meeting in Philadelphia, Saturday, July 1, 2023.

The Sarasota school board on Tuesday voted 4-1 to ask member Bridget Ziegler to resign.

Ziegler, an original co-founder of Moms for Liberty, appeared defiant at the dais, asking the school board lawyer if indeed the resolution had “no teeth,” and staying largely silent after casting her “no“ vote.

Dozens rallied outside the school board meeting, accusing Ziegler of hypocrisy for having advocated against LGBTQ causes while she was having a sexual relationship with a woman, a revelation that came to light last month as her husband Christian Ziegler is being investigated by police for accusations of sexual assault.

Board member Tim Enos said it's up to Bridget Ziegler to decide whether to quit. Only Florida's governor can remove a school board member, and only under certain conditions, such as a criminal charge.

Prior to the meeting, several dozen people marched outside carrying signs and chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, Bridget Ziegler has got to go." Among the signs' slogans were “Ban Bridget, not books” and “Real women aren’t homophobes.”

Students were not allowed into the school board meeting, and typical performances by student honor guards and musicians were cancelled due to the content of the meeting, chair Karen Rose said.

Seventy people signed up for public comment.

Some spoke in Ziegler’s defense, saying an adult’s behavior in the privacy of their own home is off limits. Other decried her record of limiting talk of gender and sexuality in schools, posing for social media in a T-shirt that said, “real women aren’t men,” as evidence of hypocrisy.

“Kids are asking their parents what is a three way, and what is rape,” said Leila Newcomb during public comment, referring to the Sarasota police probe of Christian Ziegler, head of the Florida Republican Party. Now yet another month has been wasted on distractions.” she said.

Prior to the meeting, two school board members, including Tom Edwards, the only Democrat on the five-member board, and chairwoman Karen Rose had previously called for Ziegler to step down from her seat. So had Black community leaders and public school advocacy groups.

“Bridget Ziegler must step down now,” said a joint statement by the Sarasota NAACP and the Manasota Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), pointing out that the issue is not revelations about Bridget Ziegler’s sexual escapades, but “the level of hypocrisy on display.”

“Her presence is a distraction, and she can't be effective. And that hurts the work of the Board,” said David Wilkins, Manasota ASALH branch president.

"Our kids are of most importance, and anything that distracts from serving them, and providing the very best education for all of our children, I think, is disqualifying,” he added.

Christian Ziegler has not been charged with a crime, and has refused to resign.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

This is a developing story. Stay with WUSF for updates.

Copyright 2023 WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF 89.7.

Kerry Sheridan is a reporter and co-host of All Things Considered at WUSF Public Media.