Local organizations criticize FDOE’s proposed standards on racial literacy

Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, other groups call for rollback of Gov. DeSantis administration policy on Instruction Planning and Reporting

Demonstrators gather outside DCPS headquarters. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Less than two weeks before the Florida Board of Education is set to vote on several updates to the state’s education standards, the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville staged a demonstration Friday in front of school district headquarters, protesting a recent ruling on how issues of race are taught in K-12 classrooms.

The rally specifically pointed to the June 9 passage of a rule banning the teaching of critical race theory (CRT), a measure seen as largely symbolic, as the theroy is a university-level theoretical concept and not part of any established K-12 curriculum in Florida.

“Instruction on the required topics must be factual and objective, and may not suppress or distort significant historical events, such as the Holocaust, slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the civil rights movement and the contributions of women, African American and Hispanic people to our country,” the rule states before specifically citing CRT, The New York Times’ 1619 Project, and holocaust denial.

At Friday’s rally in front of Duval County Public Schools headquarters, demonstrators said the main point of concern does not lie in the banning of Critical Race Theory instruction.

“Banning critical race theory in our schools does nothing,” said Duval County educator and activist Hope McMath. “But what does happen in this conversation, is that teachers who believe in teaching race as part of student’s understanding of the world around them, it puts a chilling effect on them, because they’re being specifically told this is a whole scope of our collective existence that cannot be discussed in the classroom.”

While CRT is defined in the rule as “the theory 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,” demonstrators accused Gov. Ron DeSantis of utilizing the theory as a means of stifling any form of critical thinking about racial issues in America.

“I think he needs to rethink what he’s doing,” said Hazel Gillis, president of the James Weldon Johnson Branch of The Association for the Study of African American Life and History. “Because it appears to be a ploy to make sure that we don’t know our history, but we need to know our history, it has to be taught. There’s so much black history that’s buried in history, that we need to bring it out.”

DeSantis has said teaching the theory can cause division among students.

The Florida Board of Education meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. in Seminole.

About the Author:

McLean is a reporter with WJXT, covering education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.