Former Palm Beach County School Board member calls new African American history standards 'ridiculous'

Controversial standards claim 'slaves developed skills' for their 'personal benefit'
African American history textbooks in the media center of a Florida public school during the 2022-23 academic year.PNG
Posted at 5:42 PM, Jul 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-21 17:43:43-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The South Florida community is reacting to controversial new African American history standards for public schools in the Sunshine State and what they mean for education.


"We have so many books that really we are trying to ensure our babies and our community have access to when they are feeling the frustration of what's going on right now," said Pranoo Kumar, the owner of Rohi's Readery in West Palm Beach.

Kumar strives to make Rohi's Readery a safe place for everyone. But she's frustrated with the state's new standards for African American history, implemented to be in line with the so-called "Stop WOKE Act."

"I'm very angry about it, and with righteous anger, because I don't want to just sit in a place of anger. I want to make sure we are doing something with that anger," Kumar said.

A state work group put together the standards, which were approved by the Florida Board of Education this week. But one section in particular continues to raise concerns among critics. It said that in middle school, "Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit."

"As if enslavement of Africans was long-term job training. Like, really? What madness is this? Just stop. Tell the truth," said Dr. Debra Robinson, who spent more than 20 years on the Palm Beach County School Board. "I don't have the vocabulary to describe how ridiculous this is."

Now as the chair of the Coalition for Black Student Achievement, Robinson said school districts will need to create guidelines for teachers on how to teach the new standards.

"We can't have teachers afraid to teach the truth. This is really going backwards," Robinson said.

But the state stands by its changes. Board of education members said that are not taking anything away, just adding more content to African American studies.

"I read the standards and I reread the standards to see what I was missing, and everything is there," said Kelly Garcia, a member of the Florida Board of Education. "The darkest parts of our history are addressed, and I'm very proud of the task force."

"The new standards align these requirements and will hold teachers accountable that a complete African American history continues to be taught," said Glinton Gilzene, the chairman of the state's African American Studies Task Force.

But Kumar said she won't stop fighting for what she feels is right for our community.

"I'm going to ensure I do whatever it takes to continue to tell the actual truths of marginalized communities, especially the Black community. Because our children — no matter if you are Black or not — need to understand what has happened in our country," Kumar said.