Florida teachers criticized by parents for new education standards

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The Florida Board of Education approved new standards for how Black history should be taught in the state’s public schools.

One teacher spoke to WINK News anonymously, saying that he worries going public with his criticism might jeopardize his job.

“The culture is toxic in Florida public schools for teachers currently,” the anonymous teacher from Collier County said.

According to the teacher, backlash from parents started before the newly announced changes to the African American History curriculum.

While teaching about Reconstruction and the amendments added to the Constitution designated to protect the rights of the newly freed slaves, the teacher said people would threaten him.

“Mind you, they were taught to the standards using certified County materials that were deemed perfectly fine for teaching this subject,” the teacher said, “but still emails come in, ‘I’m going to get your education certificate taken away from you. I’m going to sue you for teaching my kid critical race theory.'”

The Second District Court of Appeals determined Collier County Public Schools could not use previously adopted social studies instructional material because of the process by which those materials were adopted. The court ordered the district to change them.

The teacher will move into a different role this school year. Eventually, his plan is to leave the state of Florida. He believes he’ll be one of many teachers to do so.

Two benchmarks in this 22-page curriculum have caused quite the storm. The first benchmark under fire applies to middle schoolers in grades 6 through 8: “Analyze events that involved or affected Africans from the founding of the nation through reconstruction.”

But the problem lies with the benchmark clarification: “Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

The other benchmark getting criticism applies to high schoolers learning about the destruction and rebuilding of Black communities during Reconstruction and beyond. Part of it says: “Instruction includes acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans…”

“On its face, that seems misleading. Because if you look at the particular examples they give, African Americans were engaged in that violence, but they did not necessarily start it. They were reacting to; they were defending themselves, so that’s incumbent on the teacher, again, to put all of these statements in context,” said Jennifer Sughrue, professor of educational leadership at Florida Gulf Coast University.

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