Florida Education Commissioner Flakes On Community Forum Discussing Black History Policy
Dozens of lawmakers, concerned parents, and educators gathered in Miami Gardens’ Antioch Baptist Church on Thursday, Aug. 10, to provide feedback to Florida’s Department of Education. The discussion, meant to be an open forum, allowed everyone to share their anger and discontent over the state’s new Black history teaching standards. However, Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz was nowhere to be found.
The focus of the discourse surrounded the policy, as previously reported, that requires middle school educators to teach that enslaved people “developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
According to the Associated Press, Diaz, who oversees the new policy enforcement, wasn’t in attendance. Diaz had previously agreed to attend the forum, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Shevrin Jones, and even had a name placard displayed the night of the event. Speculation surrounding the no-show suggests that it was due to the overwhelming backlash to Florida’s policies surrounding Black history.
However, Diaz took to his X account (formerly Twitter) to quell the uproar stirred by his absence. He wrote, “There was nothing sudden about my inability to attend Senator Jones’s town hall. As I told the senator last week, I will be visiting schools throughout the state to welcome back students, parents and teachers for the first day of school.”
There was nothing sudden about my inability to attend Senator Jones’s town hall. As I told the senator last week, I will be visiting schools throughout the state to welcome back students, parents and teachers for the first day of school. https://t.co/ghzmTTfpcj
— Manny Diaz Jr. (@CommMannyDiazJr) August 9, 2023
Attention was further called to Diaz’s absence when the American Federation of Teachers Secretary-Treasurer, Fedrick Ingram, called him out in front of the crowd.
“First, let me address the elephant in the room,” Ingram said. “Manny Diaz is a coward. Ron DeSantis knew that this was going on. Manny Diaz knew that this was going on, and they both know how important this is for the Black community. They know they should’ve been here tonight to face you.”
At the meeting, several other prominent lawmakers and educators urged parents to teach their children about the true horrors of slavery at home since it’s being restricted at school, and state Senator Jones told audience members that a focus group was being created to study the new policy standards more attentively.