Elementary Class' Field Trip to Bar Prompts Death Threats Toward School Board

A school board member in Florida told local media outlets this week she received death threats after posting a message on social media about a field trip elementary school students took to a bar and grill located in a predominantly LGBTQ neighborhood.

The Broward County School Board member, Sarah Leonardi, told the Miami-based WFOR-TV she has been "attacked with bigoted comments and death threats" and said some of her friends and family members have similarly been targeted.

The controversy stemmed from a field trip some students at Wilton Manors Elementary School took to Rosie's Bar and Grill in Wilton Manors earlier this week. Leonardi posted pictures from the visit on Twitter Wednesday afternoon and wrote she was "SO honored" to assist with chaperoning the trip.

Florida elementary school field trip death threats
School board members in Broward County, Florida said they received death threats in the wake of a field trip some elementary school students took to a bar and grill located in a predominantly LGBTQ neighborhood. Above, students return to school after the Florida Department of Education mandated that all schools must have in-class learning during the week on August 31, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. Octavio Jones/Getty Images

"The students and I had a fun walk over and learned a lot about our community! A huge thank you to @RosiesBnG for hosting this special field trip every year," the tweet said.

I was SO honored to be invited to chaperone @WiltonManorsES’s field trip to the incredible Rosie’s! The students and I had a fun walk over and learned a lot about our community! A huge thank you to @RosiesBnG for hosting this special field trip every year! pic.twitter.com/A3rpMbyUJP

— School Board Member Sarah Leonardi (@bcpsleonardi) October 27, 2021

Leonardi's post began receiving negative responses from other members of the community and even from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' press secretary, Christina Pushaw. Pushaw's tweet about the field trip included a photo of the bar and grill's menu and suggested Leonardi may have initiated the visit "EXPECTING that some parents would protest, so she could call the FBI and go on MSNBC to discuss all the 'threatening messages' she's received from 'insurrectionist' parents."

Broward County Public Schools, the sixth-largest school district in the U.S. and second-largest in Florida, responded to the controversy in a statement issued Thursday that said the field trip was part of a lesson known as "how we organize ourselves" in which students learn about the organizational structure and responsibilities of a community.

The students "learn about the types of jobs involved in operating a restaurant, how to pay for their meal, and how to leave a tip for the service they receive," the district's statement said. "In addition, as part of the field trip, the Wilton Manors Police Department provides traffic assistance for the students so they can see and learn about the different ways police officers support the community."

The students were given a kids-friendly menu while visiting Rosie's, the district added.

John Zieba, the owner of Rosie's, told WFOR-TV his staff has also been targeted as news of the field trip spread.

"We're getting horrible emails, they're jamming our phone lines all day with nasty comments, cursing out my staff," Zieba told the station.

Zieba also pushed back against the individuals referring to Rosie's as a "gay bar" on social media in a conversation with The Miami Herald.

"We welcome everybody. Every race, color, creed or ethnicity," he told the paper.

The Broward Teachers Union told the station the Florida Department of Education was planning to look into the field trip in the wake of the controversy. A spokesperson for the department confirmed an investigator planned to visit the school in a statement shared with Newsweek on Friday.

"The Florida Department of Education is aware of the situation in Broward County," said Jared Ochs, the department's director of communications and external affairs. "We have an investigator going down there today to determine if there is a legally sufficient complaint."