Palm Beach County parents, educators concerned about passage of race education bill

'Individual Freedom' measure bans educators from teaching certain racial topics
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Posted at 5:22 PM, Mar 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-10 18:22:42-05

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — For this second time this week, legislation is on its way to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that's leaving teachers and school leaders feeling confused about what they are and aren't allowed to talk about in the classroom.


"These decisive legislations that are in front of us in the state Legislature will have irrevocable impacts on our young people and their lives," said Palm Beach County parent Marsha Guthrie.

Guthrie is feeling disappointed about the bill headed to DeSantis, focused on how history is taught in school.

While HB 7 — formally called the "Individual Freedom" measure — doesn't explicitly address the controversial Critical Race Theory by name, it bans any teachings or workplace trainings that "espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates, or compels" someone to feel responsible for historical wrongs based on race, color, national origin, or sex.

Employers could be subject to civil rights lawsuits if their practices make workers feel guilty.

"The governor made it clear it was a political priority of his. Something he felt he needed to campaign on, not just for governor, but for president," said Andrew Spar, the president of the Florida Education Association.

Spar feels the legislation is looking for a problem that doesn't exist, as teachers have strict state standards they follow.

"I'm worried it will have a chilling effect. I'm worried there will be some accusations made against teachers who are simply teaching the curriculum," Spar said.

Supporters said the "Individual Freedom" bill is needed to protect students from indoctrination.

"I would have a real hard time if my children were to sit in a classroom and be told that they need to feel guilt and shame for what happened," said Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland.

But Palm Beach County School Board Member Alexandria Ayala said that's not happening in local classrooms.

"I'll keep saying it. Critical Race Theory and this idea that is a highly complex legal analysis of how racism and law intersect is not taught in public schools," Ayala said.

Ayala doesn't expect much to change in Palm Beach County classrooms.

"The cultural war about it has really caused so much more division in our community," Ayala said.

Guthrie said she's putting faith in her daughter and others to think for themselves.

"Give the kids credit," Guthrie said. "Just because they learn about a difficult time in history, an oppressive time in history, a revisit time in history, doesn’t mean that they are going to see themselves as being a racist."

This bill was also mentioned in aletter the Palm Beach County School Board and Superintendent Mike Burke sent to state lawmakers last month, expressing concerns about several pieces of legislation.

The School District of Palm Beach County sent WPTV the following statement Thursday about the passage of HB 7:

"The District adheres to curriculum guidelines as set by the Florida Department of Education."

The Florida Department of Education said it's reviewing the bill and will look to see if any adjustments need to be made to state standards.