Sarasota Herald-Tribune | By Ryan McKinnon | Updated October 21, 2021
Sarasota County School District officials have removed a reading passage from the fifth-grade curriculum over concerns that the excerpt may violate the state’s ban on teaching critical race theory.
The removed passage described the modern-day Black Lives Matter movement. The narrator described being in danger every day because of racist attitudes and beliefs. The new passage instead describes a civil rights protest from the 1960s.
In an Oct. 11 letter to parents, the Elementary Curriculum Department said that school officials have been reviewing material to ensure it complies with the state Board of Education’s mandate on critical race theory, approved in June.
“In preparation for an upcoming unit of study in fifth grade, it was discovered that the student book contained some vocabulary passages that were not available for review during the adoption process,” the letter stated. “After further review, it was noted that one of those passages contained content that may be controversial and in conflict with FDOE’s requirements.”
The Florida Department of Education defines critical race theory as “the theory that racism is not merely the product of prejudice, but that racism is embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons.”
The passage that was removed described a child’s perspective of a Black Lives Matter protest during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All were joined in a common purpose: to raise our voices in dissent against racist systems that harm Black people,” the passage read. “We were protesting limits on our opportunities and dangers threatening Black lives.”
“We are followed by security guards through department stores. We are suspected of crimes when we are minding our own business,” the passage stated. “We are constrained every day by others’ mistaken beliefs.”
School District administrators flagged the passage as a possible violation of the new state rule. The curriculum publisher sent them a replacement passage that shifted the setting from a current-day BLM protest to a 1963 civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama.
Instead of discussing the author’s feelings about modern-day injustices, the new passage described the effort to overturn Jim Crow laws.
“We were protesting legal segregation and the many ways these unjust laws constrained our lives,” the new passage states.
District spokesman Craig Maniglia said the passages were in a fifth-grade workbook with perforated pages, so it was simple to take out the original passage and give students a handout of the replacement.