“Something must change if the current administration’s credibility is to be restored. The current law and district policies regarding book/material bans and removal are replete with ambiguities and loopholes that facilitate opportunities to confound, distort, and confuse,” said Dr. Goliath J. Davis.
BY GOLIATH J. DAVIS, III, PH.D., Contributor
My recent column on the film about the Ruby Bridges story being banned at a Pinellas County elementary school has generated considerable dialog and debate within the county and across the country. At my last glance, more than 7,500 readers had accessed the article. Among the comments I have personally heard are “what is the district thinking,” and “can we trust them?”
I decided to address these and other questions within the context of transparency, veracity and the district’s stated core values of “cultural competency and integrity.”
Ironically, within the last three months, the district has been immersed in controversy over banning the book “The Bluest Eye” and a film that tells the Ruby Bridges story utilized to teach its scholars. Both works depict African American struggles. Other works may have also been banned but are unknown as of this writing.
Quite often, ranking officials in the district speak of the necessity of being transparent. Transparency is closely aligned with veracity, and both speak to the issue of truth and openness and are intended to promote and cultivate trust. However, when one dissects the district’s behavior in both cases – “Bluest Eye” and the Ruby Bridges story — one can only conclude the district’s actions challenged both transparency and veracity.
Regarding “The Bluest Eye,” there was initial confusion surrounding who decided to ban the book. Initially, the Palm Harbor principal was cited, but then Associate Superintendent Dan Evans fell on the sword only to later confess, when pressed, that he, the superintendent and legal advisor made the decision and admitted the process was violated.
Regarding my column on Ruby Bridges, some began to suggest I had the story wrong, so I decided to phone Evans. He informed me the issues surrounding the film were “more about miscommunication than the process not working.” He readily admitted the Northshore principal followed the process. So did I in my column.
He also admitted parents were notified, and the parent who objected was given an “opt-out option.” This point was also made in the column. Dr. Evans stated as I noted in the article, that the movie was shown, and the complainant contacted the superintendent, who dispatched Area Superintendent Mike Vigue to investigate. It was not known when the column was written that the complainant allegedly completed a complaint form, and the issue was referred to the complaint review committee, which will review the movie and recommend whether or not it is age appropriate for second graders.
According to Evans, Vigue miscommunicated when he informed the complainant, Ms. Conklin, (not named by Evans) the film would no longer be used in the K-5 curriculum. Evans states the film has not been banned and is still available on the movie link site utilized by the district.
Reportedly, other schools can access the site and utilize the movie. However, based on my information, the column indicated the film was banned, and I remain committed to that position.
Some in the district report that the principal decided to remove the film and not utilize it again, and others question whether or not this is the truth or fiction. Whether it’s the “The Bluest Eye” or the Ruby Bridges story, it appears high-ranking district administrators are incapable of making key decisions related to critical policies complicated by the anti-woke movement.
Or, as some in the community have stated when I explain the situation: “Yeah, right!” In other words, they find it difficult to believe Evans was a lone actor, and on the heels of “The Bluest Eye” banning, Vigue would make the decision he made, now being called a “miscommunication,” without consulting with the individual who dispatched him to investigate. And, if correct, on both accounts (Evans’ and Vigue’s), training is undoubtedly warranted.
Isn’t it curious that the district purports to value “cultural competency and “integrity,” encourage the celebration of Black History Month and within three months, ban a book by an award-winning Black writer and a film on the life of a 6-year-old Black girl attempting to obtain a quality education while facing death threats and racial epithets? These bans and other actions deprive scholars of opportunities to know and understand African American experiences in America and their many contributions to its history.
The district’s credibility is being questioned, and some ask, “who’s in charge?” Given the two cases above, some sarcastically suggest Evans and Vigue while others note what appears to be reality: DeSantis and his Mothers of Liberty board members are running the Pinellas district, and a single complainant can usurp the will of the majority.
Maybe it’s time for some to see the “Wizard,” for some courage is in order. Currently, the wheels of justice in the district are turning slowly, if at all, and in the words of Dr. King, “justice delayed is justice denied.”
On a personal note, I have experienced a lack of veracity at the Lakewoods, Elementary and High, and I currently understand why others are questioning the district’s integrity. While I will not at this time label the district a “liar,” I will however suggest it cease engaging in activities that easily appear deceptive.
Northshore Elementary school followed the process, and the net effect is the film has been banned. Call it a miscommunication if you like, but the Ruby Bridges story has been referred to a committee for review, and there has yet to be a reported date when the review will be completed. These actions raise questions regarding competence and veracity.
Reasonable individuals must wonder why personnel was not allowed to speak to the media, and an immediate affirmative statement was not forthcoming. Some accuse the district of duplicity; my column was on point.
Something must change if the current administration’s credibility is to be restored. The current law and district policies regarding book/material bans and removal are replete with ambiguities and loopholes that facilitate opportunities to confound, distort, and confuse. I am excited by School Board member Caprice Edmonds’ proposal to address the district’s policy. Let’s support her!