School District in Florida Cancels Professor’s Civil Rights Lecture Over Concerns of Critical Race Theory

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Photo:  William Lovelace/Daily Express/Hulton Archive (Getty Images)
Photo: William Lovelace/Daily Express/Hulton Archive (Getty Images)

The debate over critical race theory has continued to affect how students across the country learn about the history of the United States and the controversy has played out once again in the state of Florida.

A Florida school district canceled a college professor’s civil rights lecture for teachers saying they had concerns over critical race theory, although his seminar had nothing to do with it, according to NBC News.

Read more

The professor, J. Michael Butler, is a history professor at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. He was preparing to deliver a seminar called “The Long Civil Rights Movement,” to Osceola Country School District Teachers. It was going to explain how the civil rights movement came before and after Martin Luther King Jr. by decades.

According to NBC News, Professor Butler said he was shocked but not surprised when he was emailed that his presentation was going to be cancelled.

The day before, Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed a bill prohibiting schools and private businesses from making white people feel “discomfort” when teaching about race and racism.

From NBC News:

“There’s a climate of fear, an atmosphere created by Gov. Ron DeSantis, that has blurred the lines between scared and opportunistic,” Butler said in a phone interview.

“The victims of this censorship are history and the truth,” Butler said. “The end game is they’re going to make teaching civil rights into ‘critical race theory,’ and it’s not.”

A spokeswoman for DeSantis, Christina Pushaw, denied the allegation and pointed out that DeSantis had nothing to do with the local Osceola County controversy — one of the most tangible examples of how the debate over critical race theory has reached public schools in Florida.

“Critical Race Theory and factual history are two different things. The endless attempts to gaslight Americans by conflating the two are as ineffective as they are tiresome,” she said in an email. “So just to be clear, mixing up ‘teaching history’ with ‘teaching CRT’ is dishonest.”

States across the country have been campaigning to try to prohibit critical race theory from being taught in schools. Although Florida may be at the forefront, bills have been pushed in Texas and Mississippi to ban how race is taught in schools.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) aims to look at how racism has molded every part of American society such as public policy and institutions such as the justice system. It looks at how those policies and institutions were made to conserve the social, economic, and political inequalities between white people and people of color.

According to NBC News, Terry Castillo, a school board member of the Osceola Country district said a lot of the parents have had thoughts over the CRT debate.

I wonder who those parents were?

More from NBC News:

“School districts in Florida are in a precarious position as we navigate the anti-CRT administrative order which has little guidance yet promises to have strong consequences if not implemented,” she said in a written statement that pointed out how “school boards have been punished for going against the governor’s orders regarding mask mandates.”

Castillo said she was initially unaware that Butler’s seminar had been canceled and that she was informed by the school district’s superintendent, Debra Pace, that the administration initially wanted to postpone it because of concerns about the spread of Covid.

But as the discussion intensified in Tallahassee, Castillo said, Pace also became concerned about the particulars of Butler’s lecture about the history of civil rights.

According to an email Pace sent Wednesday to “social science educators” scheduled to attend the event, a copy of which was shared by Butler and independently verified by NBC News, the school district wanted a committee to review his presentation.

“I’m sorry we are unable to offer the planned professional development,” Pace wrote.

“We needed an opportunity to review them prior to the training in light of the current conversations across our state and in our community about critical race theory,” she continued, saying the district had received only a summary document of his presentation.

Butler has said that he did not get to share his entire presentation with the district, and his presentation does not mention systemic or structural racism, according to NBC News.

Local administrators felt the topic set off “red flags” that related to CRT.

Butler said, according to NBC News, “this is all fact-based instruction. This is not theory-based. This is not indoctrination.”