“Let teachers teach”: Heavy pushback on rule forbidding Critical Race Theory, indoctrinating students

Florida's State Board of Education meeting on June 10, 2021 was interrupted by chants that broke out over a controversial rule related to the teaching of racism. Protestors said: "Let teachers teach." Source: Danielle J. Brown

With controversy continuing over what students should learn about the past, Florida’s Board of Education meeting was interrupted Thursday when a man giving public comment started a chant while at the podium:

“Let teachers teach,” chanted Ben Frazier with the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville.

As other advocates joined in the chant, the meeting stopped. Frazier and other advocates were removed from the room.

The commotion started over a rule that says “teachers serve as facilitators for student discussion and do not share their personal views or attempt to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view” that is inconsistent with standards set by the Board of Education.

But with a larger conversation about how history and civics is taught in the classroom, and Gov. Ron DeSantis promising to ban an academic lens called Critical Race Theory, some Floridians are concerned that the rule will stifle teachers’ ability to instruct and lead their students through difficult parts of American history such as slavery and segregation.

The original rule was vague, saying that instruction “may not suppress or distort significant historical events, such as the Holocaust, and may not define American history as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.”

But shortly after protesters were escorted out of the room, Board of Education Member Tom Grady offered an amendment to the rule that outlined both Holocaust denial and Critical Race Theory as examples of theories that “distorts historical events and are inconsistent with the State Board approved standards.”

Grady said at the Thursday meeting that he proposed the amendment after feedback from those in favor and opposed to the rule, who argued that the original rule was vague and did not “say enough.”

The state board approved the rule.