Miami school requires parental consent for kids to hear Black author’s book

Image via Shutterstock/Media Photos

By Giselle Balido

February 16, 2024

Miami-Dade County Public Schools said the slip was sent out “in compliance with state law.” Florida education officials, however, called it “nothing more than a political ploy.” 

Earlier this month, the parents at Coral Way K-8 Center, a Miami-Dade County public school, were asked to sign permission forms so their children could participate in a Black History Month activity.

As reported by CNN, one of the parents posted an image of the slip on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, prompting shock and anger that the school required parental permission to–in the form’s language– “participate and listen to a book written by an African American.” 

“I had to give permission for this or else my child would not participate???” the parent, Chuck Walter, wrote in the tweet. 

In response, Miami-Dade County Public Schools said the slip was sent out “in compliance with state law,” because guest speakers would participate in the activity. A statement posted on the school district’s website reiterated the stance that schools do not require permission slips for the instruction of Black history, but that forms should be used when there is an activity outside of the curriculum or when a guest presents at school.  

Florida education officials, however, strongly admonished the move, calling it “nothing more than a political ploy.” 

A hard push to the right

The current situation, critics say, is part of Republican Gov. DeSantis’ efforts to steer Florida education to the extreme right. A statewide book ban movement—signed into law by DeSantis—has made Florida the state with the second highest number of school-related book bans in the country, according to a recent analysis published by PEN America, a free speech and literary organization. 

RELATED: How One County Is Teaching Kids to Be Critical Thinkers in DeSantis’ Florida

Critics pointed to the irony that this incident happened during Black History Month, when the history and accomplishments of African Americans in the US are commemorated across the country.

Following a growing national backlash, DeSantis accused schools of “virtue signaling” and critics of “trying to create phony narratives.”

“You had this incident in Miami where they did some permission slip, it was absurd,” DeSantis said during a press conference Thursday. “There’s nothing in the state that required that, the state board of education immediately wrote a letter to the principal that said, ‘knock it off, stop with the nonsense.’”

RELATED: Florida school book bans would cost $100 each under proposed bill

At the same time, the Florida Phoenix reports that the governor appeared to endorse a pending bill that would impose a $100 “processing fee” on book challenges filed by anyone who’s already filed five unmerited challenges in a school district where they don’t have a child enrolled. The bill, a clear effort to reign in rampant book challenges under DeSantis’ new laws, has received bipartisan support from House members and has advanced through two committees.

A whitewashed vision of history

Florida has required lessons on Black history since 1994. But many advocates say that its schools are failing to meet that mandate. The state’s set of standards to teach Black American history were also revised last year to include the notion that slaves benefited from slavery, as they developed skills that “could be applied for their personal benefit.” 

The state’s failure to adequately teach students about Black history has profound implications for the present and the future of Florida students, retired teacher Sylvia Vera-León told Floricua, 

“The students are going to get a whitewashed view of American history, which doesn’t help them become informed citizens, or people with a critical view who can actually make our world better in terms of social justice,” she said.

But a school curriculum that veers to the extreme right is not the Sunshine State’s only problem when it comes to education. School districts in DeSantis’ Florida continue to place at the bottom of the national ranking in key metrics like teacher salaries–Florida ranks 48th in the nation for average teacher salary, according to the National Education Association (NEA) –student funding and allocating funds to high poverty level areas. 

Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

Politics

Local News

Related Stories
Share This