News August 12, 2022 at 09:30 am

Florida teacher resigns after claims school staff pulled down his images of African-American heroes

Francis Akhalbey | Content Manager

Francis Akhalbey August 12, 2022 at 09:30 am

August 12, 2022 at 09:30 am | News

The images the school district employee took down included portrayals of Harriett Tubman -- Photo via the Library of Congress

A Florida public school teacher tabled his resignation after claiming a school district employee took down photos of African-American heroes that were displayed on his classroom walls because they were allegedly “age inappropriate.”

The teacher, identified as Michael James, labeled the behavior of the school district employee as racist, Pensacola News Journal reported. James, who was a teacher at O.J. Semmes Elementary School, sent an email to Gov. Ron DeSantis and Escambia County Superintendent Tim Smith to air his grievances.

James said the images the school district employee took down included portrayals of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriett Tubman, Colin Powell, and George Washington Carver

“It really floored me,” James told the news outlet. “I’ve been teaching special education for 15 years, and it just really floored me when she did that.”

The images were displayed on a bulletin board. James said he picked the Black themes on the board because the inhabitants in the neighborhood around O.J. Semmes are predominantly Black. The teacher added that he wanted to display images of notable personalities his students could identify themselves with and be motivated by them.

Prior to his resignation on Tuesday, James was an exceptional student education teacher at his former place of employment. But his resignation comes in the wake of the country recording a shortage of teachers.

Responding to the incident, Superintendent Smith said teachers are allowed to display educational materials they deem fit, adding that he did not know of any policies that bars teachers from showing images of inspirational American heroes on the walls of their classroom, Pensacola News Journal reported.

Smith, who also labeled the incident as an “anomaly”, said an investigation has since been launched. 

Charlie Crist, a Democratic Party member vying for Florida’s gubernatorial seat, alleged Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “culture wars” was the reason behind politics being involved in public schools in Florida.

“This is the sad reality of Ron DeSantis’s Florida — a teacher, in a predominantly Black community, comes into their classroom to see posters of historically Black American heroes, including President Obama, taken down for being ‘inappropriate’,”  Crist said in a statement from his campaign. 

“DeSantis’s culture wars are infiltrating every corner of our state, and it’s Florida’s students who are paying the price.”

Escambia County Public Schools spokesperson Cody Strother also said the school district is investigating the incident. 

“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 statement said.

“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. We are now in the process of conducting a full investigation. 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.”

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