Education Commissioner pulls out of town hall on Black history education standards

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The event was seen as a chance for him to explain the new guidelines' rationale and hear concerns about it.

State Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. has canceled his participation in a Thursday town hall concerning Florida’s standards for teaching African American history.

Diaz confirmed late Wednesday he will not attend the Miami Gardens event, which was announced two weeks ago in response to outcry over the new standards.

In a statement released Wednesday evening, Miami Gardens Sen. Shevrin Jones, one of the forum’s organizers, said Diaz is depriving the community of answers about how African American history will be taught. The state Board of Education approved a 216-page set of new state social studies guidelines, including a requirement that lessons about slavery mention how “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

“After personally confirming his attendance, it is deeply disappointing that Commissioner Diaz now lacks the will and courage to defend his department’s misguided curriculum changes,” Jones said in a statement. “Instead, the Commissioner and (Gov. Ron) DeSantis’ administration have once again turned their back on the largest Black city in the state and shown who they are working for: not us.”

“The people deserve answers, with or without the Commissioner, and we encourage community members to attend to ask questions and voice concern over these guidelines,” Jones said.

The guideline in the new standards requiring lessons to include that slaves learned beneficial skills has lit a national furor, stoked by DeSantis’ run for President.

The controversy prompted Kamala Harris, the first U.S. Black Vice President, to visit the state twice to decry what she called “gaslighting” about the history of chattel slavery. DeSantis is fundraising off her involvement.

Jones, fellow Democratic Sen. Rosalind Osgood of central Broward County and Miami-Dade School Board member Steve Gallon III organized the forum to discuss the issue. Diaz previously confirmed he would be at the 7 p.m. event Thursday at Antioch Baptist Church.

At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, CBS News Miami reporter Jim DeFede posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that Diaz was pulling out. An hour later, Diaz responded saying, “There was nothing sudden about my inability to attend Sen. Jones’s town hall. As I told the Senator last week, I will be visiting schools throughout the state to welcome back students, parents and teachers for the first day of school.”

Sixty-one districts start school Thursday.

Osgood called the cancellation “heartbreaking and extremely disappointing.”

“When those standards were set down, they were not vetted through the community,” Osgood said. “The community had a major outcry about it, so the responsible thing for the Commissioner of Education is to come to the community and listen to their concerns. Let them voice their concerns, value and respect them by facing them.”

The forum will go on, Osgood vowed, and she’ll bring the concerns she hears to Tallahassee. Members of the public can RSVP here.

Democratic state Rep. Felicia Robinson, Fed Ingram of the American Federation of Teachers, and Karla Mats of the United Teachers of Dade are also scheduled to be at the event.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


12 comments

  • My Take

    August 9, 2023 at 10:28 pm

    A sniveling coward.

  • My Take

    August 9, 2023 at 11:21 pm

    “Slave Owners–Mentors, Not Monsters” by R. DeSSlantis, Esq.: New Way College Press.

  • Ron DiSaster

    August 10, 2023 at 12:47 am

    “The men who did the Bataan Death March all got lots of exercise and improved their physical fitness.”
    – A History of World War II by Ron DiSaster

  • My Take

    August 10, 2023 at 3:39 am

    There WAS no good in slavery.
    There IS no good in Ron DeSantis.

  • Sonja Fitch

    August 10, 2023 at 4:15 am

    You ,Desantis et Al. Mmm look at Ohio. We will not forget Desantis et Al. ! Common Good!

  • Ocean Joe

    August 10, 2023 at 7:11 am

    Busy welcoming kids back to school.
    Does anybody who knows a school age kid, or who was ever a school aged kid themselves think the kids care whether this big shot is at their school?
    Why not admit it. You cannot defend the indefensible.
    You do not want to make white people uncomfortable, so you hide the truth.
    And you hide from Floridians you target.

  • Denmark

    August 10, 2023 at 8:36 am

    Good. This meeting was set up to be an ambush and there was no reason for Diaz to take part in it. As I have posted several times: these standards have now been out several weeks, with national publicity. No major historian in the state of Florida (and no, that does not include Marvin Dunn who is not a trained historian at all) or nationally, has publicly attacked the standards, nor has any reputable historical organization. Get over it.

    • Ocean Joe

      August 10, 2023 at 9:29 am

      Dunn holds a Ph.D. in psychology (1980) University of Tennessee, probably a better basis to comment on the impact of teaching this type of candy coated revision.

      Shall we teach in the Holocaust section (required) that Israel probably would not have been created but for Hitler?
      Shall we teach in the Communism vs. Democracy section (required) that Cubans now own Miami, so therefore Fidel Castro was beneficial?

      Read Dunn’s work: Florida History Through Black Eyes, before you disregard his opinion and experience. The Old Florida the governor is trying to recreate was no picnic.

      • Ocean Joe

        August 10, 2023 at 9:48 am

        Dunn taught at FIU for 34 years, authored 5 books on Florida history, 3 documentaries, all dealing with Florida history, and grew up in Florida at the tail end of segregation.
        He lived through the segregation of separate schools and facilities and Florida’s resistance to change. He’s perfectly qualified to comment on the standards.

  • Michael K

    August 10, 2023 at 8:42 am

    Typical of this administration: no accountability, no discussion, no dissent, no transparency – and every leader in over their heads.

    They have succeeded in making Florida education the laughing stock of America, as they systematically destroy public education.

    Cowards.

  • PeterH

    August 10, 2023 at 4:37 pm

    Why would this education commissioner want to defend Ron DeSantis’s education policies that have driven teachers from the classroom. Florida public schools are short 12,000 employees …..a 15% increase in deprivation from last August.

    Republicans are America’s biggest problem.
    Vote all Republicans out of office.

  • Nick Sortal

    August 10, 2023 at 8:18 pm

    I don’t think it was Diaz’ decision. Certainly he conferred with DeSantis. No way he had any choice in the matter.

Comments are closed.


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