Duval County Teachers Speak Out Against Critical Race Theory Ban

Jul 2, 2021

Some teachers in Duval County are speaking out against a recent change to Florida’s education rules that they say will whitewash the teaching of American history. 

Passed unanimously by the State Board of Education in June, the new rule prevents the teaching of critical race theory, which says that racism is structural and continues to impact many aspects of our society. 

DCPS Superintendent Diana Greene has said the rule banning critical race theory won’t change the curriculum because critical race theory was never taught in Florida. But some teachers are still concerned the law may have a chilling effect. 

“The governor and [State Education Commissioner] Richard Corcoran have decided to intimidate us,” said Alex Ingram, who teaches civics at Darnell-Cookman Middle School near Springfield. “My fear is that other teachers will be intimidated, not really understanding what is and what isn’t critical race theory, and will completely whitewash their teaching.” 

Hope McMath, director of the arts and education center Yellow House, was among those speaking outside DCPS headquarters at a protest organized by the Northside Coalition Friday morning. “How are teachers supposed to handle the conversation, when a student wants to know why during Reconstruction, when all of a sudden we had African Americans holding office and holding power, how and why did that get reversed?” she asked. 

The Board of Education’s rule comes amid a suite of new laws around education and the First Amendment in Florida signed by a Republican governor with presidential aspirations. House Bill 1 created additional penalties for crimes committed during a riot. House Bill 5 required the development of a civics curriculum that frames communism and totalitarianism as “ideologies that conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy essential to the nation’s founding principles.” And House Bill 233 requires the State Board of Education to conduct an annual assessment of “intellectual freedom & viewpoint diversity” in Florida public universities. 

McMath pointed to Amy Donofrio, who was removed from her teaching position at Robert E. Lee High School earlier this year after she refused to take down a Black Lives Matter flag, as an example of what happens to teachers who resist the changes. 

DCPS has declined to comment on Donofio’s case because litigation is ongoing, but has pointed to district policies that restrict employees’ political speech. 

Contact Sydney Boles at sboles@wjct.org, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.