Charlie Crist blames Ron DeSantis for Panhandle school Black hero controversy

Crist_Desantis side_by_side (1)
‘This is the sad reality of Ron DeSantis’ Florida.’

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is blaming Gov. Ron DeSantis for the treatment of a Pensacola-area teacher who walked out after a district employee removed pictures of historic Black “heroes” from his classroom walls.

The Pensacola News Journal on Wednesday reported that O.J. Semmes Elementary School teacher Michael James emailed a letter to the Republican Governor and district leadership saying a district employee removed what the employee described as “age inappropriate” images. The images included depictions of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriett Tubman, Colin Powell and George Washington Carver, James told the News Journal.

“This is the sad reality of Ron DeSantis’ Florida — a teacher, in a predominantly Black community, comes into their classroom to see posters of historically Black American heroes, including President (Barack) Obama, taken down for being ‘inappropriate,’ Crist said in a statement. “DeSantis’ culture wars are infiltrating every corner of our state, and it’s Florida’s students who are paying the price.”

The controversy comes as the first Florida schools, including Escambia County schools, begin their first academic year under legislation signed by DeSantis that targets “critical race theory.” Among other rules, the law prohibit lessons teaching students that they are inherently racist, sexist or oppressive because of their race, color, sex or national origin. It would also ban instruction that they are personally responsible and should feel guilty for the past actions of members of their race, color, sex or national origin.

Crist, a St. Petersburg Congressman and the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, hopes to deny DeSantis a second term on Election Day.

“Florida deserves a Governor that gives students the freedom to learn and educators the freedom to teach. Come November, Floridians will cast aside DeSantis’ divisive culture politics and bring back decency and respect to the Sunshine State.”

The incident occurred Monday and James officially quit Tuesday after emailing the letter the night before. Wednesday marked the first day of school in Escambia County.

This academic year, schools must also comply with legislation limiting classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity, a measure critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

DeSantis’ office says Escambia County Superintendent Tim Smith has responded to the report and is looking into it.

“Florida has high quality education standards to ensure students learn about African American history. In fact, instruction in this subject is required under state law. Of course, it would be appropriate to discuss civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. in the classroom. Florida students have learned about the Civil Rights Movement for years and will continue to study it in every school district, in accordance with state standards. Anyone who asserts otherwise or pretends this is an unresolved question is either mistaken or misrepresenting the truth,” the Governor’s Office said in a statement.

“Critical race theory is a theory — not a fact,” the statement continued. “In Florida, schools will teach historical facts. That includes the history of the civil rights movement and Black leaders in the USA. This has nothing to do with CRT, the Stop WOKE Act, or any of the initiatives to ensure that students receive high-quality education rather than ideological indoctrination.”

Crist is squaring off against Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the Democratic gubernatorial Primary, slated for Aug. 23. The winner of that contest will face DeSantis on Nov. 8.

Polls and fundraising data have consistently shown Crist outpacing Fried in the Democratic Primary. Additionally, DeSantis leads both Crist and Fried in heat-to-head polling and fundraising.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


  • AndreaWatson

    August 10, 2022 at 6:57 pm


  • Arm The Homeless

    August 10, 2022 at 8:01 pm

    This is exactly the type of chaos that Gov. Ronny-Bobby is courting with his attempts to indoctrinate Florida’s school kids with his radical right-wing agenda.

    If you can keep everyone scared of who might tattle on them for *checks notes* teaching history you can keep them repeating your right-wing absurdities

    • Whodathunkit

      August 11, 2022 at 2:59 pm

      That’s just BS..

  • Joe Corsin

    August 10, 2022 at 8:12 pm

    Vote RED for far right propaganda in schools
    Vote RED for capitalist scams and grifts
    Vote RED for terrorist militias fighting for the rich
    Vote RED for election theft and dangerous lies
    Vote RED for forced birth of meth babies and crack babies!!!!!

  • Thumb on the scales

    August 10, 2022 at 8:57 pm

    Without reference to the actual poll numbers and margins of error, it is misleading and irresponsible to mention polls at this point. Surely you know better.

  • seber newsome

    August 10, 2022 at 9:36 pm

    are they any pictures of whites in any classrooms?????

    • Wendy

      August 11, 2022 at 10:39 am

      It was a special ed classroom made up of predominantly African American students and the teacher wanted to put up aspirational photos for them. This was stated in the original article yesterday.

    • T

      August 11, 2022 at 8:50 pm

      There was u clown, they weren’t taken down.

  • tom palmer

    August 10, 2022 at 9:43 pm

    This is amazing and the latest comment makes the point. The facts are that nothing but the images of white men were posted in classrooms for decades. I could understand the Escambia bureaucrat’s action in view of Gov. DeSantis’ demonstrably vindictive manner.

    • Seber Newsome III

      August 11, 2022 at 3:56 am

      Tom Palmer, are there any pictures of white men or women in any of the classrooms TODAY????

  • John Doe

    August 11, 2022 at 7:20 am

    Boy, Charlie Crist is really struggling. Has to go to some obscure school and dig up some petty fight amongst the locals, then try to somehow blame Governor DeSantis. Peeeshaw. We all know Charlie is just stirring up the colored folks, trying to manufacture a controversy so they will reliably vote for the Democrat Plantation.

    • Gabby's Daddy

      August 12, 2022 at 8:19 am

      You are “John Doe” because your mother didn’t want you either.
      Do you wear a t-shirt that has “I’m With Stupid” on the back, and “Hi, I’m Stupid” on the front?

  • Charity Gray

    August 11, 2022 at 8:47 am

    stirring up the colored folks, laughing all the way to the front of the bus!

  • JR

    August 11, 2022 at 4:12 pm

    I can understand the sentiment of the teacher, but if he put those pictures up to be aspirational for the black kids, what is he doing for the few white kids in his class. Do those kids feel left out? Do they not deserve representation?

  • Yep

    August 12, 2022 at 9:28 pm

    Really JR?
    So just take them down. How is that all lives matter shirt fitting on you?

  • Susan B.

    August 19, 2022 at 5:33 am

    I was an educator for 45 years in six states. My husband’s position moved him, and I adjusted for each move. The comments about pictures of white men and women was absurd, because you took everything out of context. For years in America, black children were in segregated schools, and when integration occurred, it was beneficial to all students to learn about contributors to this country from both races. The teacher who had a few posters of famous black Americans did so to inspire the majority of his students! I respect that, and so should you! This all a bunch of petty nonsense that just pushed another Florida educator out the door! Grow up, and become more “open minded” in your thinking, and not so “judgmental!!”

  • Marshall

    August 22, 2022 at 9:23 am

    800 million a week for illegals to trample over to receive a 5 star hotel or steal the homeless shelter.and student loans forgiveness so you all have to pay

Comments are closed.


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