A teacher from an Escambia county public school resigned this week after what he called ‘racist’ actions by a school district employee, according to the Pensacola News Journal. After decorating his classroom with Black historical leaders, the district employee in question took them down.
Michael James, a white man, had put up a bulletin board at O.J. Semmes Elementary School with images of Martin Luther King Jr. Harriett Tubman, Colin Powell and George Washington Carver, the report says. James said the district employee who removed those pictures thought the images were “age inappropriate.”
“It really floored me. I’ve been teaching special education for 15 years, and it just really floored me when she did that,” James told the News Journal. Well, this is Florida: the land where learning even the smallest piece of Black history is considered dangerous and alarming.
Read more about the situation from Pensacola News Journal:
James chose the board’s theme because the majority of the students and the residents in the neighborhoods that surround O.J. Semmes are Black, and he wanted to motivate his students with inspirational leaders they could easily look up to and see themselves.
James, 61, of Daphne, Alabama, sent his letter to the governor Monday night. He officially resigned from his position as an exceptional student education teacher at O.J. Semmes Elementary School on Tuesday morning.
Superintendent Smith said teachers are permitted to decorate their classrooms with educational materials and he was unaware of any policies that would prohibit a teacher from displaying pictures of inspirational American heroes on their walls.
James sent a letter about the situation to Gov. DeSantis (who probably could not care less) and the Escambia County Superintendent Tim Smith. Charlie Crist, the Democratic nominee running against DeSantis in the midterm elections, previously criticized the governor’s role in enabling behavior like this.
“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’,” said Crist in a statement by his campaign via the News Journal.
Crist said ultimately such insensitive actions shortchange the students. He’s right. I was hurt seeing the hurdles I had to go through to get my high school to celebrate and acknowledge Black history. I can’t imagine not only losing the power to do so, but also watching my teacher lose that power as well.
A spokesperson for the Escambia County Public Schools said in a statement that the the office is in the process of conducting a full investigation.