Race omitted from Rosa Park’s story in revised weekly instructional text for Florida schools highlights confusion with Florida law

(CNN) Studies Weekly, a publisher that produces educational journals for Florida’s K-6 grades, revised one of its lesson plans for the 2022-2023 school year to take out race as the reason Rosa Parks and why she was subsequently arrested.

The original text, which reportedly instructed Parks “to change seats because of the color of her skin,” was edited because “people on our curriculum team grossly overreacted and made unauthorized revisions in their interpretation of HB 7,” studies said Weekly tells CNN in a statement.

Florida’s House Bill 7 restricts what students can be taught about certain subjects, including race. It went into law last July and requires schools to submit course materials to the state Department of Education for textbook review.

According to Studies Weekly, the revisions were missed due to flaws in the quality assurance process, and they’ve taken corrective action and safeguards to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.

“We find the omission or change of historical facts reprehensible and do not defend it,” the publisher said in a statement. “These unauthorized changes have already been removed from our curriculum.”

Studies Weekly says the “unapproved changes were never completed or delivered to schools for classroom use”.

However, Stephana Ferrell, a parent and activist with the Florida Freedom to Read Project, told CNN that as late as January while she was on duty, she was able to easily access the Rosa Parks lesson plan with the omissions online, along with several other black history lessons as a guest critic for the Florida Department of Education.

According to Ferrell, any parent can register as a guest critic and view any lesson plan submitted to the state for inclusion in the 2022-2023 curriculum.

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The omission highlights some of the difficulties book publishers now face when attempting to comply with HB 7.

Studies Weekly said in a statement to CNN that the Florida Department of Education has not provided guidance on how the law applies to the publisher’s existing writing. “Studies Weekly, like any publisher, has had to decipher how it complies with its laws,” the statement said.

“It is our duty to follow the guidelines provided by each state department of education,” and that its texts are aligned with state standards, it continued.

Rosa Parks was killed on February 22, 1956 by Lt. DH Lackey of police in Montgomery, Alabama, fingerprinted. Florida blames the publisher for mistakes

The Florida Department of Education blames Studies Weekly for the omission.

“No one in the Florida Department of Education has requested or would request that reference to race be removed from social studies textbooks as it would clearly contravene the … requirements of Florida law.”

The Department of Education said it informed Studies Weekly that their text was not being considered for use in the 2022-2023 school year, but they may reapply for inclusion in future years.

The Florida Department of Education tells CNN that the state has “robust requirements for teaching African-American history.” The new law, it says, “explicitly requires discussion of issues such as slavery, racial oppression, racial segregation and racial discrimination.”

Playing politics with children’s education

Ferrell said Florida is using taxpayer money to make “public education so dysfunctional,” adding that because of the penalties associated with violating state laws, “publishers are now scared.”

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Ferrell, who has two elementary-school children, says she spoke out against the state’s book bans and racist classroom restrictions after attending a school board hearing and witnessing firsthand the “censorship” of historical facts.

“We found that the attack specifically targeted Black and Brown, Hispanic, Indigenous and LGBTQ+ voices; those were the people who were chasing them,” Ferrell said, adding, “we wanted to make sure we put more and more of those voices into our schools.”

It’s time the state stopped playing politics with children’s education, Ferrell said. She and her husband decided to send their children to a public school to expose them to other cultures and perspectives and to learn from the experiences of others, she said.

“We wanted our kids to have the views that challenged them, we want them to ask questions,” Ferrell said.

Florida’s battle for the teaching degree race

The omission of race in the Rosa Parks story is just one of the most recent race-teaching controversies in the state, and comes after the DeSantis administration last year rejected certain math textbooks because it said they had evidence of CRT and other banned ones Concepts found in the materials, CNN previously reported.

Florida has been at the center of debate over how to teach racial issues in public schools. In June 2021, the state was one of several to ban Critical Race Theory (CRT) classes, CNN previously reported. Scholars who have studied critical race theory say it examines how a history of inequality and racism in the United States has continued to affect American society.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has expressed his disapproval, saying CRT “teaches kids to hate our country and hate one another.” He went on to say that “it is state-sanctioned racism and has no place in Florida schools.”

Florida turned down a new Advanced Placement (AP) course in African American Studies earlier this year, CNN previously reported. DeSantis said the course included studying “queer theory” and political movements that advocated “prison abolition.” DeSantis called it a “political agenda.” The state Department of Education said the course framework lacked “educational value” and violated state law.

In response, the College Board, the testing organization responsible for developing the course curriculum for schools statewide, defended its framework and accused the Florida Department of Education of “slandering” and using the course as a tool for political enrichment.

The debate about how to teach race has expanded beyond K-12 education. The New College of Florida’s newly appointed Board of Trustees voted in late February to eliminate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs at the school. The move follows DeSantis’ proposal to defund DEI programs at state colleges and universities.

In February, DeSantis said the state “requires black history instruction.” But a state body created to help school districts do this says many schools only cover the issue during Black History Month in February. Critics of the state also say that African American history courses in the state have historically been underfunded.