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Teacher resigns after district employee removes Black heroes on wall

by Ezekiel J. Walker
Teacher resigns after district employee removes Black heroes on wall
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Michael James, an Escambia County public school teacher, resigned this week over what he characterized as racist behavior by a school district employee.

James emailed a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis and Escambia County Superintendent Tim Smith in which he wrote that a district employee removed pictures of historic Black American heroes from his classroom walls under the guise of them being “age inappropriate.”

Images that were removed from the bulletin board at O.J. Semmes Elementary School included depictions of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriett Tubman, Colin Powell and George Washington Carver, James said.

“It really floored me,” James told the News Journal. “I’ve been teaching special education for 15 years, and it just really floored me when she did that.”

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, according to 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 as an ally he wanted to motivate his students with inspirational leaders they could easily look up to and see themselves.

The GOP’s CRT continues its assault on education

Superintendent Smith has launched an investigation into this “anomaly” of a matter. As their community experiences teacher and bus driver shortages amid James’ resignation, while morally understandable, he leaves yet another classroom of majority Black kids without a dedicated teacher to instruct them.

Charlie Crist, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor to challenge DeSantis in November, blamed the governor’s “culture wars” for politicizing Florida’s public 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’,” said Crist in a statement by his campaign.

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

CRT is being not taught in any K-12 school system. Yet red states across the country have attempted to erase any discussion – academic or not – pertaining to race. Many wondered what the backlash would be during 2020s protest of police brutality. As racist statutes were torn down across America and even internationally, it seems the response from the right is not only to tear down Black posters, but to also tear out pages of books and remove them altogether if they have anything to do with Black history or Black people.

School District looks to investigate the matter

Escambia County Public Schools spokesperson Cody Strother provided the News Journal with an official statement:

“Our office was made aware of this employee’s resignation and his stated reasons for resigning very early this morning, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022,” the statement read. “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.”

Information in this article was obtained via the Pensacola News Journal.

2 comments

Eric Jackson August 11, 2022 - 1:40 pm

The idea of removing the pictures of African American heroes is unconscionable. The insidious transmission of the carcinogen of racism is evident in the actions of the white supremacist and is easily recognizable through their prevarications. Kudos to Mr. James. I recall being told at work by a Black Woman who was the director of my department to take down a picture of then President Obama because it offended people. How indoctrinated that poor Black Woman was – total sell out.

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