Florida teacher Michael James resigned from his job after the school removed images of historic black men from his classroom.
Florida appears to be the epicenter of contentious, heated debates over educational reform. The southern state passed sweeping laws last year that restricted how educators could discuss sexual education and orientation, along with racism as well. Teachers opposed to these measures have conveyed their fears of the chilling consequences this might have on how they may teach certain lessons. Seeming to prove many apprehensions against these laws, Florida teacher Michael James resigned from his new job after the school removed images from his classroom of historic black leaders.
Michael James hadn’t even started his first year teaching in Florida before making the decision to quit just before the start of the new school year. After decorating poster boards that lined his special education classroom wall with prominent black figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Colin Powell, and George Washington Carver, school officials quickly turned around and removed them. According to reports from People, James has contacted the school’s superintendent, and even Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis to convey his disapproval over the matter.
Michael James recalled the recent day when school staff came into the room he was setting up to take down his posters. Speaking directly about the matter with The Pensacola Journal, the teacher said that he chose the theme of prominent black leaders in history because the majority of the students he served were black. He wanted to inspire them with the theme.
On a Monday morning, while preparing for the first day, Michael James said that a school behavior analyst and a separate behavior coach entered his classroom. Soon after, one of the women began taking down the posters of the black figures from his bulletin board. Questioning why she was removing them, Michael James recalls her asserting that the pictures were not age-appropriate.
Age-appropriate material is considered a big area of contention now in Florida schools. The newly enacted Parental Rights bill, coined by opposers as the Don’t Say Gay law, prohibits any sexual education lessons along with any discussion for students grade three and under. Likewise, it prohibits this wherever deemed “age-inappropriate”. Furthermore, the Stop WOKE Act now prohibits teachers from discussing any racial concept that may be deemed divisive and therefore could make certain students feel guilty about the color of their skin.
Once Michael James reported the incident in his letters to the superintendent and Florida’s governor, he immediately resigned from what was set to be his new position. While it’s unclear where he taught previously, James noted that he had worked with special education children for over 15 years. Since doing so, a spokesperson for the school district has released a statement noting that they are investigating the incident.
Schools across Florida are struggling to comprehend and adhere to strict new laws regulating how they can and can not teach children. Oftentimes, they are citing ambiguous comprehension of the new acts, and a lack of state guidance on how to properly deal with the new laws. While schools all across the nation are reporting massive teacher shortages, it could also be part of what’s driving extensive shortages all across Florida.