A Florida elementary school removed a Disney movie about Ruby Bridges after a parent complained about scenes of white people threatening the Black girl as she entered school.
Emily Conklin, development director for the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg, filed a formal challenge dated March 6 complaining that the film about a 6-year-old who integrated New Orleans schools in the 1960s was not appropriate for second graders because, she wrote, students might learn that white people hate Black people, and the Pinellas County School Board pulled it from the curriculum, reported the Tampa Bay Times.
“Think about it: A 6-year-old girl (Ruby Bridges) can go to school every day with armed guards, but second graders can’t learn about it?” said Ric Davis, president of Concerned Organization for Quality Education for Black Students. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
The 1998 film had been part of Black History Month lessons for years without controversy, but parents across the state have been challenging materials that depict or explore racism and LGBTQ issues with the encouragement of Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republican legislators.
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“The (Pinellas) district’s leadership appears to fear the potential consequences of not acting in the way they have on these two decisions,” Davis wrote in an open letter. “This approach to challenging times in education in our state raises serious questions about Superintendent (Kevin) Hendrick’s leadership.”
The district also banned Toni Morrison's novel "The Bluest Eye" after one parent complained about a two-page rape scene, and Davis said state guidelines were too vague and allowed a single complaint to result in bans while the material was reviewed.
“At the highest level of decision-making in the district, they have to have more sensitivity to the diversity of the community they serve, and not overreact because one white person objected to something,” Davis said, adding that school officials should not overreact to a Black parent's objection. “At the end of the day, we’re one total community and we have to figure out how we work together to make decisions that serve everyone.”