Senate bill targeting what teachers can and cannot say gets committee approval

Published: January 26, 2022 4:49 PM EST
Updated: January 26, 2022 6:19 PM EST

A bill making its way through the Florida legislature could limit what teachers can and can’t say in the classroom.

Senate Bill 148 cleared its first hurdle, getting approval from the State Senate Education Committee.

The Florida Education Association, the state’s teacher union, said the legislation is concerning.

Gov. Ron DeSantis promised new rules for schools.

No critical race theory even though not one Florida school district teaches it.

And more protection of individual freedoms despite the cry from teachers that the measure censors them.

Senate Bill 148, which does not mention critical race theory specifically, bars any teaching that could make people feel responsible for historic wrongs because of their race, colors, sex or national origin.

“I don’t think too many people would disagree that the Holocaust was a bad thing, or that slavery was a bad thing. And so this notion that you can’t ever teach that something is wrong, or something is right just doesn’t make sense,” said Andrew Spar, the president of the Florida Education Association. “This bill gets in the way, quite honestly, of everyone being able to do their job and being able to make sure that our students are getting that education they deserve.”

In Southwest Florida, the Collier County Public Schools said they do not comment on pending legislation.

The Lee County school district said it is monitoring the bill’s progress.

The Charlotte County school district did not return a request for comment.

“Let’s focus on what our kids need and let’s stop allowing the politics to get in the way because that’s what’s driving so many people out of the profession,” Spar said.

Spar said lawmakers need to focus on facts like Florida’s teacher shortage.

State Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, said “there was an inherent misunderstanding by the opponents of the bill that this bill was designed to prevent the teaching of basic American history.”

“That’s just flat out wrong,” Roach said. “There’s nothing in the bill that does that. I mean, we encourage the teaching of American history with all of its warts, all the ugliness all of it.”

Spar doesn’t see it that way.

He thinks teachers will shy away from certain truths of history.

“When we talk about slavery, when we talk about the Jim Crow laws, when we talk about how women didn’t have the right to vote in this country, and minorities didn’t have the right to vote in this country, when we talk about those instances, we should be able to say that was wrong,” Spar said.

Rob Moor, a Lee County social studies teacher at East Lee County High School, said he feels like Big Brother is watching over him.

“I’m a professional, I have a master’s degree, I take summer development courses, all across the country, on my own expense, to find the latest and most current events and best resources from the sources,” Moor said.