A Message From The Publisher
By Bobby R. Henry, Sr.
It appears these members of the Broward School Board just can’t seem to get out of their own way. While judge and school board seats are not partisan, the Board Members themselves can’t seem to conduct themselves in a non-partisan way. We often hear politicians of both major parties speak on the campaign trail about their ability to work across the aisle. Yet, when they get into the seat, it is partisan business as usual, and it is the reason they really get nothing done. In the case when something does get done when the leadership flips to a majority of the opposing party, they spend all their efforts undoing the progress made by the other side.
I have written about Florida legislation around parents’ rights that has led to people questioning books on the shelves, some books like Huckleberry Finn which are classics. Books by some very Black notable authors like Walter Dean Myers, Alice Walker and James Baldwin have been questioned for their fitness for students to read. Principals and teachers have expressed fear to teach Black history to students as a part of American History and specifically during Black History Month because of the uncertainty of what these laws mean.
When I received a copy of the proclamation that Board member Torey Alston drafted, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. Someone finally had the courage to provide clarity. Someone finally had the intestinal fortitude to speak on behalf of the Board to detail what is supported around theteaching of African American history in Broward schools. The resolution points out that Black History is a required part of the Florida curriculum. It goes on to say that the district is responding because the Board needs it to take a position considering what has been said in the public—- truths, untruths and the gray area is between. The resolution continues with language directly from Florida statutes that supports the teaching of Black History in schools. It spells out the expectation that Broward schools will be following the law around teaching Black History. It continues to name specifically the 1920 Ocoee Massacre in Orange County which is the largest incident of voting day violence against Black people in US history. This event should never be forgotten, and there is a mandate that it must be taught in Florida schools.
I was relieved that someone had the guts to set the record straight and ease the fears of educators. A resolution by itself isn’t the end all, be all. But it represents a start to a better understanding of where Broward schools stand on the teaching of Black history in its schools.
The issue I saw at play today at the Board meeting was around the fifth “whereas” of the proclaims too. The 1988 Manchester High School alum took a machete from the gully of the Jamaican countryside and went to work. While no other Board member had the foresight to bring clarity to the situation for employees, students, parents and the community, the criticism was down party lines. The fifth “whereas” with Board member Alston’s and Governor Ron Desantis’ names was a bone of contention for some from the Blue party.
Alston brought the item forward and by including his name there also placed responsibility squarely on his shoulders. Some people meet compliments with open arms but dodge criticisms like bullets.
The fifth “whereas” also included DeSantis’ name which really sent the Blue Party over the edge. DeSantis’ name needed to be there to send a clear message that this resolution was not in opposition with the governor but to clearly define Broward’s position. The US Constitution does not address education directly and scholars have long said that it was intentionally done that way because the Founding Fathers considered Education a state matter. With education being a state matter and the Governor of the state of Florida pushing legislation that is unclear to many, it gives the resolution teeth to include him. I venture to say that he is included with permission.
How many people have read House Bill 1557 AKA Don’t Say Gay or House Bill 999, for example? Many people take what someone says, what they read on the internet, a political meme or social media commentary and run with it as if it is absolute fact. They don’t research, read or do any fact checking for themselves. It is why educators have painted this thing with a broad brush thinking they cannot teach Black History though it is a state requirement. This resolution attempts to clear it up for Broward Schools, yet partisan politricks were on full display at Tuesday’s Board meeting.
I, for one, am glad to see this resolution. I caution, however, that it is only words on a paper. I am now waiting for the execution in classrooms across the district and stand ready to support any principal or teacher who gets blowback for teaching Black History. Understanding that teaching is not simply the regurgitation of facts, but creating a learning space where students ask questions and engage in robust discussions and intelligent debate around the facts they are learning and how these facts impact them in their daily lives.
The lowest level of learning is about learning a subset of facts. It is a fact that the 1920 Ocoee Massacre is the largest incident of voting day violence against Black people in US history. The real, deep, and meaningful learning comes when students discuss how this fact intersects with today’s voter suppression that is covert in nature but violently threatens democracy as we know it and the civil rights of all marginalized groups. I am waiting for the shoe to drop in Broward when some parent calls. We have it here in writing. Talk the talk. Walk the walk.
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