A school board member in Florida says she has received death threats after posting on social media about taking a group of elementary kids on a field trip to a beloved local gay bar and grill.
Broward County school board member Sarah Leonardi accompanied the children to Rosie’s Bar & Grill in Wilton Manors. The establishment is well-known in the area and attracts a wide cross-section of locals, including those with kids.
After the trip on Wednesday, Leonardi posted about it to her Twitter and Facebook.
“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!”
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
At a time when school board meetings have become a friction point over mask mandates and LGBTQ-inclusive lessons, the posting has prompted over 2,000 comments on Twitter and hundreds on Facebook.
The majority are from people outraged at the idea of a school arranging a field trip to an gay-friendly restaurant. Some picked up on the fact that the menu for adults offers such dishes as the ‘Rhoda Cowboy’ and ‘Ivana Hooker’ burgers. Of course, the kids were not shown that, having their own age-appropriate menu instead. The field trip has taken place for around the last ten years.
Here are just a few examples of the tweets. It’s safe to say, most came from people with no connection to Wilton Manors.
This is just wrong on so many levels! Then telling the world that you did it! It is an indicator of just how much reform is needed in schools and school boards.
— Theresa Hauck (@DrTheresa123) October 28, 2021
I’m gay and think elementary school students going on a field trip to a gay bar is ridiculous. WTF
— J’s Game Corner 🎮 🌈 🏳️⚧️ (@just_games1984) October 28, 2021
The fact that you’ll joyfully promote a elementary school activity that has nothing to do with your core mission as an educator of this vulnerable age group, just confirms many parent’s fears of how broader cultural issues are being taken out of parents hands, w/o their consent.
— Sparktacular (@TheMainSpark) October 28, 2021
Please tell me they will all get fired for this. You just can’t trust many teachers or schools anymore thanks for continuing to prove our points
— Terra (@mamma7787) October 28, 2021
However, some of the responses have been supportive.
Just making sure you’ve never brought children to Applebee’s, TGIF Friday’s, Outback, or chili’s. Because me thinks the issue isn’t that there was a bar at the grille. pic.twitter.com/Xm6qvbVTu3
— Emma Collum (@collum_emma) October 28, 2021
👏 If I could have went on a field trip like this at that age, it would have been literally life changing. 🏳️🌈
From what I’ve gathered, the bar and grill isn’t a typical “bar” – they have special kid-friendly menus and coloring pages. No different than a field trip to Outback!
— Mikey Russo (@MikeyPanik) October 29, 2021
One of Rosie’s regular, Scott Travis, took to Facebook to express disgust at how the story was being reported by some of the more right-leaning media outlets.
“I took my mom and dad to Rosie’s Bar & Grill in Wilton Manors during their last trip here before my dad died. We had a great time,” he wrote. “I had my 50th birthday dinner with friends at Rosie’s last year. We also had a great time. The food is good, the service is awesome and the owners are nice people who give back to their community.
“Now the restaurant staff and School Board member Sarah Leonardi are receiving death threats and vile calls & messages because of a field trip where people claimed Wilton Manors Elementary children went to a “gay bar.” I’ve been to plenty of gay bars. Rosie’s Is a restaurant. You sit at tables and eat. Yes, adults can order alcohol, but the drink specials for the kids were milk and juice. I wish we were better than this.”
7NewsMiami spoke to a former student who had previously been on the field trip when he was 9 years old.
“Basically, we went over there, we ate and had some fun. We all wore, like, matching shirts,” said Patrick White. His mom also commented, saying she had no problem with it: “They go there and eat. They just go have lunch. I think it just makes them feel like big kids.”
Rosie’s co-owner John Zieba said it’s an educational, fun visit, where the youngsters learn about ordering from a menu, paying the bill and tipping the server. They also do coloring-in exercises.
“They talk about what they’re eating and how to order and how they want their food — if they want something on the side,” said Zieba, “so it’s a great experience for them. It’s really such a cool experience to see the kids’ faces light up, and how excited they are when their food comes, or when they get the bill. You can just see that they’re just enjoying themselves.”
Zieba said he had been taken aback by the social media backlash and threats the venue has received. He has notified local police of his concerns.
Sarah Leonardi has also notified authorities after receiving death threats. She issued a statement saying, “As a school board member, I am committed to staying engaged with my community. I’m always proud to join classes for field trips and events, especially when schools are connecting with the vibrant small businesses in my district. Sadly, I’ve recently been attacked with bigoted comments and death threats. My friends and family have also been targeted.”
A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Investigation told 7NewsMiami it was following up on a complaint it had received about the visit. They said the state was sending an investigator “down there tomorrow to determine if there is a legally sufficient complaint.”