Florida teacher quits after staff removed posters of Black leaders
A Florida teacher quit days before the beginning of the school year after staff removed posters of Black leaders, sharing an account of the situation that conflicts with that of the school.
Michael James, a teacher at an Escambia County public school, said that the employee who removed the posters was exhibiting racist behavior when she said that the billboard he had designed was “age inappropriate,” the Pensacola News Journal reports.
James was using images of figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Harriett Tubman and former President Obama.
“I’ve been teaching special education for 15 years, and it just really floored me when she did that,” said James of the incident.
The former Florida teacher, from Daphne, Ala., sent a letter of complaint to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Monday and resigned from his position at O.J. Semmes Elementary School the following morning.
“Our office was made aware of this employee’s resignation and his stated reasons for resigning very early this morning, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022,” the school said in a statement to the Journal. “Around the same time, we were copied on an email written by this individual and released to the Governor’s Office and various media outlets before we had any opportunity to investigate. … If these allegations are deemed factual, we will certainly take corrective action, as it is our aim that all of our teachers feel valued and supported.”
The school district said on Thursday that there were “inaccuracies” in James’s story and that the African American figures had been removed because the bulletin board was required for “state-required curricular materials” he was required to teach his students, who have special educational needs.
“To be clear, due to the nature of this specific population of students, it is critical the instructional materials be within their line of sight during instruction, for the purposes of student focus and retention,” the school district wrote.
It continued: “The Behavior Analyst observed his bulletin board was ‘Awesome,’ because of the history tied to it, but the language and reading levels on the posters were too complex for this particular group of students.”