Florida's state Board of Education banned “critical race theory” from public school classrooms.
The Board said it would shield schoolchildren from curricula that could “distort historical events.”
The move was widely expected as a national debate intensifies about how race should be used in classrooms to examine the country's tumultuous history.
Gov. Ron DeSantis urged members, to adopt the new measures he asserted would serve students with the facts rather than “trying to indoctrinate them with ideology.”
The Black Lives Matter movement has brought contentious discussions about race to the forefront, and classrooms have become a battleground. Supporters contend that federal law has preserved the unequal treatment of people on the basis of race, but opponents say schoolchildren should not be taught that America is fundamentally racist. Governors and legislatures in Republican-led states around the country have signed into law bills that would limit how teachers can frame American history.
Critical race theory is not taught in Florida public schools or in any public school system. Florida law already requires schools to provide instruction on a host of fundamentals, including the Declaration of Independence, the Holocaust and African American history, but current events, including the killings of Black people by police, have intensified debates.
The new rules say classroom instruction “must be factual and objective, and may not suppress or distort significant historical events,” like the Holocaust, slavery and the Civil War, as well as the civil rights movement and the contributions of Blacks, Hispanics and women to the country, but it also makes specific mention of “theories that distort historical events.” Those that are inconsistent with board policy, include any teaching that denies the Holocaust or espouses critical race theory, which the new rules say asserts “that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons.”
DeSantis calls it “outrageous” how some instructors are deviating from what he and others consider the fundamentals of history.
“Some of this stuff is, I think, really toxic,” DeSantis told the school board. “I think it’s going to cause a lot of divisions. I think it’ll cause people to think of themselves more as a member of particular race based on skin color, rather than based on the content of their character and based on their hard work and what they’re trying to accomplish in life.”
Earlier this year the Broward County School Board halted the use of the book "Ghost Boys" about a Black boy killed by a white officer after a police union complained to the school.
“Ghost Boys” by Jewell Parker Rhodes was used in a fifth grade class in Coral Springs without going through the district’s vetting process.
School board member Lori Alhadeff didn’t feel the book was appropriate for fifth graders.
“Currently, assignments and readings are on hold until further notice,” Alhadeff said. “The timing of whether (or whether not) to implement this subject matter must include parents and ultimately be a decision by the parents of each student. I do not feel ‘Ghost Boys’ is appropriate for fifth graders.”
“Ghost Boys” centers around 12-year-old Jerome who decides to carry a toy gun around due to bullying. He is shot in a park by a racist cop while playing with the toy, and the officer goes on to lie about the deadly encounter on the witness stand. Published in 2018 the book was banned late last year by a school district in California.
“This book convinces its reader — the children of our community — that police officers regularly lie as they routinely murder children, while painting police officers as racists,” Fraternal Order of Police District 5 Director Paul Kempinski wrote in a complaint to the School Board.
It is unclear whether the book will be banned permanently.