The Florida State Board of Education unanimously voted to ban teaching ideas related to critical race theory Thursday, making it one of the largest public school systems to fall in line with conservative efforts across the country to regulate certain classroom instruction of American history.
The rule says in part: "Instruction on the required topics must be factual and objective and may not suppress or distort significant historical events, such as the Holocaust, and may not define American history as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence."
In addition, the rule says teachers must "serve as facilitators for student discussion and do not share their personal views or attempt to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view."
Explaining the controversy behind critical race theoryJune 11, 202105:15
The board voted after hearing from Gov. Ron DeSantis and over 30 speakers from both sides of the issue. Several people at the meeting chanted, "Allow teachers to teach the truth," forcing a recess, The Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville reported.
The move was a victory for DeSantis, who has been a vocal critic of critical race theory in schools. He told board members, many of whom he appointed, by video before the vote that students should be served with fact-based curricula by teachers who should "not be trying to indoctrinate them with ideology."
DeSantis added: "I think it's going to cause a lot of divisions. I think it'll cause people to think of themselves more as a member of a particular race based on skin color, rather than based on the content of their character and based on their hard work and what they're trying to accomplish in life."
Several groups, including the Florida Education Association, a union that represents teachers across the state, opposed the rule change, saying it would do a greater disservice to students to cover up history.
Andrew Spar, the union's president, said in a statement: "Students deserve the best education we can provide, and that means giving them a true picture of their world and our shared history as Americans. Hiding facts doesn't change them.
"If giving students a good education is the goal, the rule could be amended to say in part: 'Instruction on the required topics must be factual and objective, and may not suppress or distort significant historical events, such as the Holocaust, slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow,'" he said.
A particular sore point is the use of the word "indoctrinate" in the rule, which the union says presents an overly negative view of classroom instruction. The board chose to keep the word.
Florida's move was widely expected as a national debate intensifies about how race should be used as a lens in classrooms to examine the country's tumultuous history.
Critical race theory is a concept that seeks to understand racism and inequality in the U.S. by exploring and exposing the ways it affects legal and social systems. It is not taught in Florida public schools or in any other public school system, but it has become a tremendous point of contention for conservative leaders.
At least 16 states are considering or have enacted bills that would limit how schools frame American history.
Critics say a national effort by conservatives to limit what is taught in schools risks politicizing classroom instruction by limiting the points of view allowed in classroom discussions. Supporters contend that federal law has preserved the unequal treatment of people on the basis of race and that the country was founded on the theft of land and labor.