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Harvard student’s speech blasting Moms for Liberty cofounder at school board meeting goes viral

Zander Moricz spoke during a contentious Sarasota County School Board meeting last week.Zander Moricz

As a scandal involving Bridget Ziegler, cofounder of the conservative advocacy group Moms for Liberty, continues to attract national attention, a speech by a Harvard University student calling on Ziegler to resign from a local school board in Florida has struck a chord.

A longtime activist from the state, Zander Moricz, 19, took a gap year from Harvard after the fall semester as a freshman last year to work for the Social Equity through Education Alliance, an organization he founded in 2019. The group is focused on registering thousands of young adults to vote, he said in an interview.

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Moricz was with members of the group on Dec. 12 when he spoke during a contentious meeting of the Sarasota County school board, which was debating a resolution proposed by a board member demanding that Ziegler step down. Her husband, Christian Ziegler, has been accused of raping a woman. He has not been charged with a crime but has been suspended as chairman of the Florida Republican Party. Both the alleged victim and Ziegler told police that they had a consensual three-way sexual encounter with Christian Ziegler more than a year ago, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

With her husband under investigation, Ziegler has faced growing calls to resign from the school board, with critics denouncing the anti-LGBTQ+ policies pushed by Moms for Liberty — and her own actions behind closed doors — as hypocritical.

When Moricz went to the podium at the meeting, wearing a crewneck with the logo “you give me the ick” across the front, he denounced Ziegler’s political agenda for harming Florida youth. He began by noting that the first interaction he had with her was when she retweeted “a hate article” about him when he was still in high school.

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“You are a reminder that some people view politics as a service to others while some view it as an opportunity for themselves,” said Moricz, who currently lives in Florida. “On this board, you have spent public funds that could have been used to increase teacher pay to change our district lines for political gain, remove books from schools, target trans and queer children, erase Black history, and elevate your political career.”

In Florida, Moms for Liberty first arrived on the political scene with angry protests against masking requirements at schools, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. Chapters in the state have since played a role in getting books banned and vocally advocating for the “Parental Rights in Education Act,” controversial legislation dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics.

Amid the controversy in her private life, Ziegler needs to be held accountable over the policies she has supported, Moricz said.

“My question is: Why doesn’t an elected official using our money to harm our students and our teachers for her gain seem to matter as much to us as her having a threesome does?” he asked.

Addressing Ziegler directly, Moricz said she doesn’t deserve a seat on the board.

“But you do not deserve to be removed from it for having a threesome. That defeats the lesson we’ve been trying to teach you, which is that a politician’s job is to serve their community, not to police personal lives,” he said.

“So, to be extra clear, Bridget, you deserve to be fired from your job because you are terrible at your job,” he continued as the audience burst into laughter. “Not because you had sex with a woman.”

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While the board voted at that meeting to ask Ziegler to resign, she has given no indication that she will step down, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. Only Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has the power to remove her from her seat.

Sarasota County School Board member Bridget Ziegler listened to public comments, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023, after her fellow school board members approved a resolution calling on her to resign. Mike Lang/Associated Press

But the clip of Moricz’s pointed remarks has circulated widely on social media since the meeting.

On Tuesday, the Florida Democratic Party retweeted the clip on X, thanking Moricz “for always telling it how it is and fighting for Florida’s LGBTQ+ students.”

“Bridget Ziegler and Moms for Liberty are so clearly bad for our children,” Moricz said in an interview this week. “Our students deserve better.”

While preparing for the meeting, Moricz said the alliance realized “it would be hypocritical if we tried to punish her for what she was doing in her personal life because we’re asking her not to do that to us.”

“We want politics ... to be removed from public education,” he said. “I am not arguing for a progressive agenda to be placed in our schools. I want our schools to remain fact-based and objective.”

It would have been easy to “jump aboard the Bridget Ziegler hate train over the threesome,” he said.

“But we knew that we needed to highlight what the actual problem was,” Moricz said. “We care that you have used our family’s tax dollars to worsen our quality of education, worsen our quality of life, take away our resources, take away our books.”

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This isn’t the first time that Moricz has been in the spotlight.

As senior class president, he delivered a graduation speech in May 2022 at Pine View School in Osprey, Fla., touching on his experience as a gay student and his opposition to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Moricz said he had been told that if he spoke about his identity or LGBTQ+ activism, his microphone would be cut off. Instead, he used his curly hair as a metaphor for being gay. The speech garnered widespread attention.

When Moricz saw that his speech about Ziegler was doing the same, he braced for a backlash. But the responses “have been overwhelmingly positive,” he said.

Moricz said he does not expect Ziegler will resign on her own accord “because she does not have a moral conscience.” But his organization is hopeful that they will be able to apply enough pressure to “render her existence on the school board ineffective and force the hand of our governor to remove her,” he said.

School administrators did not set a firm timetable for his return to Harvard. While Moricz isn’t sure when he will be back, he said he did not put his studies on pause “because I wanted to waste my time.”

“I’m here for a fight that is genuinely winnable. We just need people to start acting like it. So we have not given up,” Moricz said. “If people stop treating Florida like a lost cause, it won’t be.”

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Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her @shannonlarson98.