Tampa Bay area teachers weigh in on Critical Race Theory ban in Florida schools

Posted at 6:52 PM, Jun 10, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — With the decision from the State Board of Education on Thursday, some teachers in the Tampa Bay area are worried about what a ban on Critical Race Theory (CRT) could mean when they step in front of a classroom.

While the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) says CRT is not in its standards, some teachers say ideas that are part of the concept do come up naturally in the classroom.

“I think Critical Race Theory is just asking us to take a critical look, not an emotional one, not just an ideological one, but just a critical look at how systems are created in this country and saying, ‘Yeah, you know what America, we got a lot of work to do,'” said Shawanda Bonner Morgan, an English teacher in Polk County Schools.

According to Purdue University, it says: “most CRT scholarship attempts to demonstrate not only how racism continues to be a pervasive component throughout dominant society, but also why this persistent racism problematically denies individuals many of the constitutional freedoms they are otherwise promised.”

“You can put lipstick on a pig. It’s still a pig,” Governor Ron DeSantis said in May.

DeSantis tweeted on Thursday that Critical Race Theory “teaches kids to hate our country and to hate each other,” and he said that it has no place in Florida schools.

The new approved amendment also states that teachers are to serve as facilitators for student discussion and do not share their personal views or attempt to indoctrinate students.

“It’s also based on false history,” DeSantis said at a press conference in May. “When they try to look back and denigrate the Founding Fathers, denigrate the American Revolution, doing all these different things that even very liberal historians say is not supported by the facts.”

But Bonner Morgan says sometimes, the truth is a little uncomfortable.

“If we give in to the white rage and the white backlash that we have seen in every generation, all we’re going to end up seeing is maybe my granddaughter, my grandson, and maybe your grandchild sitting here talking about the same thing 60 years from now,” said Bonner Morgan.

ABC Action News reached out to school districts in the Tampa Bay area about the change and Critical Race Theory. Several districts said the concept isn’t taught in their district.

Nancy Velardi is the President of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association. She says there is no indoctrination because that would go against their professional ethics.

“Presenting American history as it is, explaining why things happened, how they happened all through our history is a part of teaching history, and it is necessary to know where you’ve been in order to know where you’re going,” said Velardi.

“Critical Race Theory is not being taught to your children,” said Patrick Mugan, a teacher in Pinellas County Schools. “Your children are being taught skills that they need to make their own decisions and their own determinations about the facts and the truths as they see them.”

When asked how a change could impact teachers, schools and student education. Mugan said one way he sees it impacting people is by intimidating teachers to avoid certain subjects.

“If you have a teacher who’s inexperienced or uncomfortable with certain subjects, and they know that there’s this rule against indoctrinating students, they might say, 'Maybe, I’ll skip this document,'” said Mugan. “Maybe, I’ll skip this section. Maybe, we won’t have that discussion. Maybe, I’ll tell the kids, 'Up, up, up, up, hold on. We’re not going to talk about that here,' instead of facilitating those discussions and allowing them to happen.”

Teachers also say for those who don’t fall in line, it’ll be business as usual. Still, they will wait to see the true impact in the classroom.

“What’s going to end up happening is that those children in class who are not a part of the white majority, they’re going to be impacted even more,” said Bonner Morgan. “They’re going to continue to feel that they don’t matter or that their stories don’t matter, and it’s going to be how it’s always been, but worse.”