A Duval County teacher has been terminated from classroom instruction for refusing to remove a Black Lives Matter banner from the wall outside her classroom, violating Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in public schools.
A Duval County, Florida teacher Amy Donofrio was terminated from her position as a Language Arts teacher at Robert E. Lee High School for—as Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran described—having “an entire classroom memorialized to Black Lives Matter,” reported Action News Jax on May 17.
“The commissioner referred to censure, firing, and termination in his answer at Hillsdale College,” Cheryl Etters, Interim Director of Communications for the Florida Department of Education (FDOE), told The Epoch Times. “All are recommendations he makes to the Office of Professional Practices Services on an ongoing basis and are well within his power.”
The FDOE’s “Office of Professional Practices Services (PPS) investigates misconduct by educators who hold a Florida Educator Certificate or a valid application for a Florida Educator Certificate.”
“In referring to the Jacksonville case,” Etters clarified to The Epoch Times, “he used ‘terminate’ to indicate the decision to terminate the teacher from classroom instruction. This was done by the district, and the commissioner was in agreement. Obviously, the commissioner possesses significant authority to ensure every child has access to a world-class education free from indoctrination.”
Donofrio is suing (pdf) the Duval County Public School system and High School Regional Superintendent Scott Schneider, claiming her termination for not adhering to the principles outlined in Rule 6A-10.081 of Florida’s Administrative Code violated her right to free speech. She is demanding a jury trial.
According to the principles outlined in the rule, teachers “shall not intentionally expose a student to unnecessary embarrassment or disparagement,” and “shall not harass or discriminate against any student on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national or ethnic origin, political beliefs, marital status, handicapping condition, sexual orientation, or social and family background and shall make reasonable effort to assure that each student is protected from harassment or discrimination.”
“Governor DeSantis has made clear his position on CRT,” Executive Office of the Governor Press Secretary Christina Pushaw explained exclusively to The Epoch Times on Wednesday. “It is divisive, irrational, and has no place in our classrooms. CRT is rooted in Marxism, an anti-American ideology that has caused untold suffering and death everywhere it has been implemented. Moreover, CRT teaches discrimination based on ethnicity and racial background.”
“The governor has zero tolerance for state-sanctioned racism,” Pushaw emphasized, stressing that DeSantis adheres to the same principle expressed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in that he “believes that every child should learn to judge people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
“That’s why the governor has taken bold steps to make Florida the national leader in civics education,” Pushaw added. “The Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative that Governor DeSantis announced in March ensures that Florida’s curriculum will expressly exclude CRT.”
Using $106 million of the state’s portion of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund provided through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation Act, the Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative is the governor’s proposal “to make Florida a national leader in civics education.”
Among other incentives, the program will reward Florida teachers who complete training and earn the Civics Seal of Excellence endorsement with a $3,000 bonus.
Florida Parents Share Their Thoughts
Textbooks containing CRT subject matter, coming soon to Florida’s classrooms, are raising concerns for parents.
“I’m a Florida resident with children in Florida public schools and I am in full support of Gov. DeSantis and his position on critical race theory,” Lisa Jeannine Smith of Navarre, Florida, told The Epoch Times. “We have a race crisis that has been created in the mind only by the mainstream media and few powerful, yet feckless leaders in our government who must create a crisis to fix, as one does not exist in present day.”
“I want my kids learning about math, science, language arts, history, and geography, among other things,” Hernando County, Florida resident and parent Jose David shared with The Epoch Times, “not about a leftist agenda.”
“I feel that it’s an important move for Gov. DeSantis to get involved in something that is critical for young people,” David explained. “They are easily influenced in schools and radical race theory, in essence teaches them that this country was founded on racism, that our whole system was based on racism, white supremacy, and all this nonsense. So, I feel it’s very important that he got involved.”
“It’s one thing to cover history or current events. But it’s another thing to praise a group like Black Lives Matter that, in my view, is doing absolutely nothing for the black community. So, when you sit there and vilify police officers to impressionable young kids, I just don’t think that’s good anywhere. I think it’s a good move for DeSantis to address this.”
Keith Flaugh, Managing Director of Florida Citizens Alliance (FCA), is pleased by the announcement by DeSantis that CRT will have no place in Florida’s public schools. However, he is concerned about the content of textbooks, which are soon to be adopted in Florida’s public school system.
“We’ve been huge supporters of a number of things DeSantis has done,” Flaugh told The Epoch Times. “We think he’s doing a great job on a lot of fronts, and we certainly applaud his words when he declares critical race theory as ‘whacko theory’ and being banned in Florida. The trouble is, those words have to mean something. Since we have every school district in Florida buying these English Language Arts textbooks right now—that will be in the classrooms for the next four to six years that are full of critical race theory—how does the governor maintain any credibility by saying he’s banned them when, in fact, critical race theory is rampant in the new textbooks they’re buying?”
“These textbook manufacturers are the same publishers that gave us Common Core and they are very progressive,” Flaugh asserted.
In February 2020, at the direction of DeSantis, the Department of Education released the proposed Florida B.E.S.T. (Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking) Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics (pdf), and announced that “Common Core has been officially eradicated from Florida classrooms.”
“So, what they’ve done is a halfway job of meeting those best standards. But they’ve infused into the English Language Arts curriculum and textbooks—that these school districts are buying—a really strong dose of critical race theory and all its tentacles. So, what they’ve ended up with is approved English Language Arts textbooks that are full of critical race theory and—as the governor puts it—‘other whacko theories.’”
When The Epoch Times asked Pushaw how the governor proposed to eliminate CRT from the classroom with textbooks laced with CRT, she said “the Florida Board of Education guides the implementation of policy around public K-12, community college and state college education in our state.”
“The Department of Education will release more detailed information about plans to ensure that Florida schools are not indoctrinating children with destructive ideologies like CRT,” Pushaw added, assuring The Epoch Times she will follow up “when those details become available in the next few weeks.”
What is Critical Race Theory?
According to Middle Tennessee University’s First Amendment Encyclopedia “Critical race theory is a movement that challenges the ability of conventional legal strategies to deliver social and economic justice and specifically calls for legal approaches that take into consideration race as a nexus of American life.”
However, according to Christopher F. Rufo—senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and founder and director of Battlefront, a public policy research center—CRT “is an academic discipline, formulated in the 1990s, built on the intellectual framework of identity-based Marxism.”
“Critical race theorists have constructed their argument like a mousetrap,” Rufo explained in a March 2021 edition of Imprimis for Hillsdale University in a piece titled: “Critical Race Theory: What It Is and How to Fight It.”
“There are a series of euphemisms deployed by its supporters to describe critical race theory, including ‘equity,’ ‘social justice,’ ‘diversity and inclusion,’ and ‘culturally responsive teaching,’” Rufo explained.
“Diversity trainers will make an outrageous claim, such as ‘all whites are intrinsically oppressors’ or ‘white teachers are guilty of spirit murdering black children,’ and then when confronted with disagreement, they adopt a patronizing tone and explain that participants who feel ‘defensiveness’ or ‘anger’ are reacting out of guilt and shame.”
According to Rufo, critical race theorists are “masters of language construction,” who “realize that ‘neo-Marxism’ would be a hard sell. Equity, on the other hand, sounds non-threatening and is easily confused with the American principle of equality.”
“Our Constitutional Republic was founded on the concept of equality,” Flaugh noted to The Epoch Times. “But if you delve into the difference between how progressives use the words equity, versus equality, equity is ‘equal outcomes,’ not ‘equal opportunity.’”