Instruction Involving Race
No matter our color, background, or ZIP code, we want our students to have an education that imparts honesty about who we are, integrity in how we treat others, and courage to do what is right. The same lawmakers who have denied us the resources we need and demanded sacrifices of our educators are now attempting to dictate how we teach. Working together, we can find age-appropriate ways to address our country’s past and present to prepare our kids to create a better future.
With guidance from Governor Ron DeSantis and Commissioner Richard Corcoran of the Florida Department of Education (DOE), the State Board of Education has adopted changes to Rule 6A-1.094124, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.), which was published on June 14, 2021. Below are the specific changes to section (3)(b) that prohibit any classroom instruction on Critical Race Theory (CRT) and/or any instruction utilizing materials from the New York Times’ 1619 Project.
NEW DOE Rule
(b) Instruction on the required topics must be factual and objective, and may not suppress or distort significant historical events, such as the Holocaust, slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the civil rights movement and the contributions of women, African American and Hispanic people to our country, as already provided in Section 1003.42(2), F.S. Examples of theories that distort historical events and are inconsistent with State Board approved standards include the denial or minimization of the Holocaust, and the teaching of Critical Race Theory, meaning the theory that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons. Instruction may not utilize material from the 1619 Project 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. Instruction must include the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments.
NOTE: In this excerpt, the underlined text represents new changes made by the DOE.
Critical Race Theory is not currently in the Florida standards and is not taught as part of the Florida public school curriculum at this time. The rule defines CRT and how the new ban on CRT instruction would be applied in Florida. Please be mindful that the definition of Critical Race Theory in Fla. Admin. Code rule 6A-1.094124 may differ from other definitions of CRT.
Although the potential application of this rule remains unknown, you should expect a heightened level of scrutiny of lesson plans and instruction relative to race. Below is some practical guidance on DOs and DON’Ts to navigate classroom instruction during this time of uncertainty. Adhering to these DOs and DON’Ts is particularly important for those offering instruction on history, social studies, civics, current events, and even journalism.
DOs and DON’Ts
When using quotations that may be applicable to race relations, even indirectly, make sure to credit the author to the quotes in lesson plans, on the board, electronically projected slides, or on printed documents. When doing so, ensure that it is clear that the quotations are being used to generate conversation and are not presented as factual.
When instructing on issues that may involve race relations, civil rights, and slavery, refrain from adding your personal opinion and state that you do not include your personal opinion while instructing.
If your administrators question you about classroom subjects involving race which are part of your curriculum, please remind those administrators of Section 1003.42(2), Florida Statute, which provides that educators are to instruct on civil rights; the history of African Americans, including the history of African peoples before the political conflicts that led to the development of slavery; the passage to America; the enslavement experience, abolition, and the contributions of African Americans to society; the Holocaust; and the study of Hispanic contributions to the United States.
4. Avoid using the term “critical race theory.”
5. If you are challenged about instruction involving race that is permissible, bring the conversation back to the honest, up-to-date education our kids deserve.
6. Never use any specific content that is from the 1619 Project in your instruction, as this is explicitly banned by the DOE.
It is not clear how this rule will be applied, but know that LCTA and FEA are here to support you and your students. As always, if you feel that you are being targeted by a parent, student, community group, or administrator, do not hesitate to get in touch with Leon Classroom Teachers Association, who will be working very closely with FEA Legal.
Scott Mazur, LCTA President
Unions are based on the premise that, through our collective voice, we can improve the lives of all. One of the things I love about unions is they are democratic institutions that are member-driven. Unions strive to bring people together around issues that impact our daily lives in the workplace and at home. We know that union members want to be respected at work, make a decent wage and have good benefits. We all want to be able to put a roof over our heads and provide for our families.
Unions are based on the premise that, through our collective voice, we can improve the lives of all.
Our teachers’ union is somewhat unique because we represent members who, not only work in our public schools, but are selfless individuals who almost always put all their students’ needs ahead of their own. Bottom line: As educators, we care about kids and the future of our community, state and nation. I would argue that no one is more patriotic than the teachers, staff, professors and graduate assistants who work in our public schools and on our college and university campuses.
Here is the thing about being a true democratic organization driven by members: Any idea, thought or concept a member has is fair game for discussion and debate. That means even ideas or concepts we may completely disagree with. It means that sometimes the issues and positions our union takes may not align with my personal position or ideals. The fact is we are a diverse group and do not always agree on every issue. Personally, I think that is a good thing. Disagreements lead to more discussion and opens us up to other viewpoints and thoughts. That is what makes us so powerful. That is also what may scare some politicians and pundits. They know that we can accomplish almost anything if we are united.
You may hear politicians and pundits from the media talking about positions that our national unions — NEA or AFT — have adopted or statements that they have made. Our opposition knows, on certain issues, some of our members will disagree and react. This is their attempt to divide and distract us.
I am not surprised that the discourse in our country is having an impact on our members across our locals and our state. The idea of discussing race and racism is certainly difficult. The way that those who seek to divide us are framing the issue is nothing more than a “dog whistle.” They want us to argue about things that really don’t have an impact on what we do. They want us to go down rabbit holes on various issues to divert our attention from the issues that should dominate the discussion of public education.
We should be talking about the teacher and staff shortages that are driven by low pay and poor working conditions put into law by some of the same politicians who seek to divide us by focusing on our differences instead of the core values we all share as educators.
We should be talking about the teacher and staff shortages that are driven by low pay and poor working conditions put into law by some of the same politicians who seek to divide us by focusing on our differences instead of the core values we all share as educators. We should be addressing the needs and education of all our students regardless of race, background, or ZIP code, especially coming out of a pandemic. We should be better at supporting students living in poverty and our students with special needs. We should be problem-solving rather than responding to the latest issue of the day designed to undermine the work we do and the future for our children. This decade must be a decade of progress for our public schools as we focus on funding our future.
We all want to be a more perfect union and that is why our local presidents across this state have been working together with both political parties to make sure that public education and the people who work in our public schools have the support and resources they need to be successful.
Let me end with this: Do we make mistakes? Yes! Do our national, state, and local unions sometimes take positions that I disagree with? Yes! But does that mean I walk away and try to silence others? No! I stand together with my colleagues and work to redirect our energy to the areas we agree on and the areas that should matter most to each of us: the well-being and education of our students, the ability for each of us to be respected for the work we do, and the ability for each of us to provide for our families and their health.
We all want to be a more perfect union and that is why our local presidents across this state have been working together with both political parties to make sure that public education and the people who work in our public schools have the support and resources they need to be successful. Let us stand together and not be divided by those who seek to divide us.
Andrew Spar, FEA President
Talking Points for Members Questioning the NEA Position on Critical Race Theory
We believe in honesty in education.
As educators, we believe in honesty and integrity in education.
We believe every student, whether Black or white, Latino or Asian, native or newcomer, deserves an education that encourages them to dig deeper into who we are, where we came from and what we are capable of being.
As educators, we know that we cannot avoid or lie our way through our challenges; we must find age-appropriate ways to tell hard truths about our country’s past and present to prepare our kids so that they may create a better future for everyone.
Joining together as union members, we can and must demand that our schools have the resources to meet every child’s needs with well-trained and supported teachers and a curriculum that helps them keep the American Dream alive.
What is NBI 39?
You may have heard about New Business Item 39. This business item was proposed by a delegate from Kentucky and adopted by NEA members, just like you, who were elected as delegates to the Representative Assembly. It calls on the NEA to:
Share information about critical race theory with members. This includes what CRT is and is not.
Provide an already created study on racism and oppression and oppose bans on CRT and/or the 1619 Project.
Publicly convey support for the accurate and honest teaching of social studies topics that are age-appropriate, including the unpleasant aspects of American history.
Call for a rally and a national day of action on Oct. 14, George Floyd’s birthday, to teach lessons about structural racism and oppression.
Conduct a virtual listening tour that will educate members on tools and resources to defend honesty in education.
Commit the NEA president to make public statements in support of honesty in education.
Delegates to the NEA also supported items focused on professional development supported by the union and on health and safety resources for union members and other issues that directly impact teaching and learning.
What is the NEA RA?
The National Education Association is one of two national affiliates of our local. At its annual meeting, the more than 6,000 elected delegates from across the county participated in the world’s largest democratic convening where any delegate may propose items for discussion and debate. After each item is debated, a vote is taken with some items being adopted and some rejected.
As union members, we value debate and democracy where all voices are heard and where the will of the members is respected, even if a decision of the majority does not always align with ours.
Your local union, our statewide union, and our national affiliates do a lot of work beyond this one business item. In addition to negotiating our contract and advocating for our members locally and statewide, our national affiliates advocate in Washington, D.C., for legislation to support our public schools. This includes a legislative program that calls for full funding of our ESE programs, for example.
I don’t feel like the NEA’s position on NBI 39 represents me. How can I make my voice heard?
Every member of our local can attend the NEA RA. Delegates to the RA are elected by our local/service unit. If you are interested in attending next year’s RA to ensure your voice is part of the conversation, contact LCTA to learn how to run for a delegate position.