Nearly 50 Teachers Plan To Resign in Hernando County Amid Attacks on Public Education

Nearly 50 Teachers Plan To Resign in Hernando County Amid Attacks on Public Education

Photo via Pixabay

By Isabel Soisson

June 2, 2023

Nearly 50 teachers are planning to resign from Hernando County Schools following unrelenting attacks  from right-wing activists and increasingly restrictive laws regulating how they can teach.

One of these teachers is Jenna Barbee, who made national headlines last month after being put under investigation by the state Department of Education over claims of “misconduct” after she showed her class the Disney animated movie Strange World, a 2022 film rated PG that includes a single gay character and no sexual or inappropriate content.

Barbee says that she was turned in by the daughter of parent and school board member Shannon Rodriguez, a member of the right-wing activist group Moms for Liberty that has been on a nationwide effort to ban a range of books from classrooms. 

“That school board member is currently on a rampage to get rid of every form of representation in our schools,” Barbee shared on TikTok last month. 

Now, dozens of other teachers in the county are reportedly planning to resign as well, which would increase the number of teaching vacancies in the district to nearly 200. Lisa Masserio, president of the teachers union in Hernando County, told The Washington Post that state laws and directives restricting educators is a key reason why. 

“There is increased pressure and scrutiny on an already difficult job,” she said.

Tensions between Florida teachers and right-wing activists and politicians reached a climax at a school board meeting earlier this week. As teachers directly declared that they were resigning due to right-wing attacks, parents and students “forcefully stood up on their behalf,” the Post notes. 

For example, local teacher Daniel Scott said that the climate of rage is driving him out of the profession.

“I don’t feel that I can adequately provide a safe environment for my students anymore,” Scott said, denouncing the “draconian working conditions that are causing many such as myself to abandon this honored career.”

“War on woke?” one student who attended the meeting added. “More like war on your children’s future.”

These mass resignations come just weeks after Florida’s state education board voted to expand a controversial law banning instruction about “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” The law, first passed last year, initially only applied to kindergarten through third grade classrooms, but will soon cover all grades through high school. Any teachers who violate the policy can be suspended or have their teaching licenses revoked. 

Florida also passed legislation last year that limits how educators in public schools can teach about concepts like the historical impacts of slavery and structural racism. Florida’s department of education, under the leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis, also rejected an Advanced Placement course on African American studies earlier this year. 

Tuesday’s board meeting is hardly the only instance of the public–and in many cases, politicians–fighting back, however. 

Nationwide, liberal parents are organizing local groups, pressuring their respective school boards, and running for office to challenge the right’s attack on education.

Democratic politicians are signing bills that would require schools and libraries to adopt a prohibition on book removals for political reasons in order to qualify for state funding. Nine Democratic governors recently sent a letter to leading textbook companies decrying “the negative impact that censorship and book-banning has on this nation’s students.”

“Ordinary parents are everywhere,” the Post notes, “…and their elected representatives are responding, and declaring that they’ve had enough.”

Author

  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.

CATEGORIES: EDUCATION | POLITICS
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