Florida’s Controversial Education Laws Have Teachers Shook Before Schools Open
Florida’s new, extreme education policies are scaring teachers. Some Florida educators are worried that the law changes could lead to them being fired or facing criminal charges, NBC News reported.
Teachers claimed they are going into classrooms less confident about lesson plans amongst all the confusion. Richard Judd, a social studies teacher at Nova High School in Broward County said he doesn’t know what to do. “I don’t know how to approach the year,” Judd said. “There’s a lot of different ways you can get in trouble. And that’s what’s so insidious about these policies.”
Since the beginning of 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis and Republican lawmakers have changed how schools teach African American history and topics surrounding the LGBTQ+ community, sexual relations, and more. In early August 2023, Hillsborough County Public Schools announced students will only be allowed to read excerpts from William Shakespeare’s plays after new laws restricted classroom materials from content that can be deemed sexual.
The Sunshine State already requires that any book in a classroom be deemed appropriate by a librarian or a “certified media specialist.”
Judd said he’s not sure if his district has had time to “digest” any of the changes. “They’ve created these really ambiguous terms that can get people in trouble, like losing your teaching license, which is basically losing your livelihood,” he said. “Without clear-cut definitions.”
Some teachers are trying to do something about it. In Miami-Dade County, a group of “teachers, students, community members, and Teamsters” marched to the Miami-Dade school board headquarters on August 16 to protest the state’s controversial Black history standards, Local 10 reported. Their issue is the state’s new standard to teach middle school students “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
Close to 20% of the students in the county are Black.
“The phrase that they’re saying that there were ‘benefits’ that happened to enslaved people is just disgusting,” protester Jonathan Gartrelle said. “It denigrates the experience of 50 million enslaved Africans that were destroyed and brutally tortured and trafficked. And it tries to soften and whitewash history.”
With all the new changes, the state is facing a teaching crisis ahead of the new school year. According to the Florida Education Association, there are 6,920 advertised vacancies for teachers statewide.