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Florida Teacher Resigns After School Removes Photos Of MLK And Harriet Tubman For Being 'Age Inapproppriate'

Florida Teacher Resigns After School Removes Photos Of MLK And Harriet Tubman For Being 'Age Inapproppriate'
Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images; MPI/Getty Images

A teacher in Escambia County, Florida resigned following what he described as "racist behavior" by a school district employee.

As reported by the Pensacola News Journal, 61-year-old teacher Michael James emailed a letter to Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, as well as Escambia County Superintendent Tim Smith explaining his decision to resign from O.J. Semmes Elementary was because the district employee, whom James claimed was a board certified behavior analyst for the school district, removed pictures from his bulletin board which she deemed "age inappropriate."

However, all of the pictures removed were of Black American heroes and Icons, including Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, General Colin Powell and George Washington Carver.

The analyst also reportedly told James he didn't need to put a picture of former President Barack Obama which had been sitting on his desk on the bulletin board either.

James did not believe the pattern was a coincidence.

"It really floored me."
"I've been teaching special education for 15 years, and it just really floored me when she did that."

James made a pointed decision in including King, Tubman and others on his classroom bulletin board as the majority of students at O.J. Semmes Elementary are Black.

He hoped displaying the pictures of Black historical trailblazers would serve as both inspiration and motivation for his students to excel in their studies.

Flummoxed as to how to respond, James considered reporting what happened to the school principal, but felt this was a much larger matter, hence his decision to email the Governor.

"I could have just sent it to the principal."
"But things need to get done."
"A lot of times people can just sweep things under the rug."

After emailing his letter to Governor DeSantis, and Smith on Monday evening, James resigned from his job as an Exceptional Student Education teacher Tuesday morning.

The news did not sit well with Smith, who clarified in a statement all teachers have the right to display any kind of educational materials in their classroom and did not believe James was breaking any sort of rules.

The incident comes during a highly contentious time for public schools in Florida, after Governor DeSantis signed the "Don't Say Gay" law into effect, barring any discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in Kindergarten through third grade.

Meanwhile, Florida is suffering from a statewide shortage of teachers just as the school year is about to begin.

The Escambia County Public Schools, from which James resigned, still needs to fill as many as 59 vacancies.

Governor DeSantis made attempts to solve this matter by allowing military veterans to earn teacher certification without all of the usual requirements, something which has not sat particularly well with school officials or experienced educators.

Democratic Gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist, hoping to challenge DeSantis for governor, called him out for creating a toxic and unhealthy environment in Florida Schools.

"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’. "
"DeSantis’s culture wars are infiltrating every corner of our state, and it’s Florida’s students who are paying the price."

Twitter users shared their shock and disgust on the matter, standing in solidarity with James and expressing their anger toward Governor DeSantis for the current state of Florida's public schools.

While Governor DeSantis has yet to comment on the matter directly, Cody Strother released an official statement on behalf of the school district, confirming the matter is being investigated.

"Our office was made aware of this employee's resignation and his stated reasons for resigning very early this morning, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022."
"Around the same time, we were copied on an email written by this individual and released to the Governor's Office and various media outlets before we had any opportunity to investigate."
"We are now in the process of conducting a full investigation."
"If these allegations are deemed factual, we will certainly take corrective action, as it is our aim that all of our teachers feel valued and supported."