Unfortunately, this post contains more news from DeSantisland: On August 9, a Pensacola-area teacher resigned from his job at O.J. Semmes Elementary after posters of Black American heroes were taken down from his classroom by a school district employee, an action that he calls “racist behavior.” Michael James, a 61-year-old special education teacher, was informed that the posters—which included portraits of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriett Tubman, Colin Powell, and George Washington Carver—were “age inappropriate.”
“It really floored me,” James told The Pensacola News Journal. “I’ve been teaching special education for 15 years, and it just really floored me when she did that.” O.J. Semmes Elementary is located in a majority-Black area in Pensacola, which was, in part, the reason for the bulletin board. (Not that there ever needs to be a reason to hang up a poster of Harriet Tubman.) Since many of his students are Black, James told the paper he’d hoped the posters would motivate and inspire his students.
Before his resignation, James sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and Escambia County Superintendent Tim Smith informing them of the incident. And while DeSantis has yet to speak on the matter, Smith insists that the incident was an “anomaly” and that a “full investigation” of the incident will follow. “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,” an official statement released by the school district on Tuesday morning said.
Other politicians have weighed in on the matter, criticizing DeSantis’ effect on education in the state. U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist, who is running for the Democratic nomination against DeSantis in November, called the incident a “sad reality” under the governor’s “culture wars,” in a statement released by his campaign. This egregious act of racist censorship comes as the state continues to try and control what goes on in the classroom, mostly under the guise of protecting children from so-called brainwashing agendas. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which DeSantis signed into law this past March, bans discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in primary school, also citing “age-appropriateness” as part of its reasoning.
What happened in James’ classroom is an obvious attack on race-related education. This past April, DeSantis also signed the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act,” which effectively “prohibit[s] lessons and trainings which tell students and employees that they are inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive because of their race, color, sex, or national origin.” The law, which has been repeatedly challenged since its passing, is part of a nationwide attack on critical race theory—a school of thought that has been heavily misconstrued and manipulated by the Republican party to eradicate accurate accounts of America’s racist past.
James’ resignation comes during a time when schools all over the country are suffering from staff shortages. Earlier this week, The Pensacola News Journal reported that the Escambia school district, of which O.J. Semmes Elementary is a part, is still looking to fill 59 teaching positions, despite having hired hundreds of new teachers over the summer. The worst part? The school year starts next Wednesday.