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After a White parent complained that a film about Ruby Bridges might cause White students to hate Black students, officials of North Shore Elementary in St. Petersburg, Florida, temporarily removed access to the film for all students while it undergoes a review of the material.
For years the Disney film “Ruby Bridges” has been shown during Pinellas County Black History Month without any issues, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Yet after a years-long campaign by anti-woke Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, White parents who don’t want their kids to learn about racism have been empowered to deny the education to all students.
Meanwhile, a countywide group representing the interests of Black students sent an open letter to the community questioning why one person’s complaint impacts all students.
“Many from historically marginalized communities are asking whether this so-called integrated education system in Pinellas County can even serve the diverse community fairly and equitably,” wrote Ric Davis, president of Concerned Organization for Quality Education for Black Students.
Ruby Bridges legacy under attack in Florida schools
Ruby Bridges was born the same year as the famous Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, when the highest court ordered states to integrate their schools.
At just six years old, federal marshals escorted little Ruby into William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Nov. 14 1960, through a crowd of angry segregationist parents hurling insults and threats.
Bridges spent her first day in the principal’s office, at lunch alone everyday, and received instruction from only one teacher in a class of one. Yet, she never missed a day of school that year, according to the National Women’s History Museum.
These days she’s begun writing her own children’s books as founder of an organization dedicated to equitable education.
“It doesn’t make any sense”
The removal of the film about her heroic act comes as Florida leads the national backlash against racial progress and racial consciousness among young people through vague laws that limit what students can learn about historic and contemporary racism.
It also comes after all Florida high schools banned Toni Morrison’s book, “The Bluest Eye.”
“The (Pinellas) district’s leadership appears to fear the potential consequences of not acting in the way they have on these two decisions,” Davis wrote in the open letter. “This approach to challenging times in education in our state raises serious questions about Superintendent (Kevin) Hendrick’s leadership.”
The complaint against the film was made by Emily Conklin on March 6. Conklin is the development director for the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg.
“Think about it. A 6-year-old girl (Ruby Bridges) can go to school every day with armed guards, but second graders can’t learn about it?” Davis said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
While one parent has the ability to remove materials and replace them under review, Florida districts have given no time frame for when the review will be completed.