A Florida elementary school teacher resigned after a district employee took down posters of prominent Black figures like Harriett Tubman in his classroom, saying 'it was not age appropriate

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  • A Florida special education teacher resigned after a district employee took down images of Black historical figures.

  • The teacher told a local news outlet that the employee took down the images, citing that they were age-inappropriate.

  • The school responded to the incident by stating that there were inaccuracies in his recollection of the incident.

A special education teacher in Pensacola, Florida, resigned after they said an employee from the school district removed pictures of historic Black Americans from his classroom walls.

Micheal James,61, resigned from O.J. Semmes Elementary School on Tuesday, a day after a board-certified behavioral analyst from the Escambia school district removed images of historical Black figures from his classroom bulletin board, citing that they weren't age-appropriate, according to the Pensacola New Journal.

"It really floored me," James told the local news outlet. "I've been teaching special education for 15 years, and it just really floored me when she did that."

James taught special education to students ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade, according to the report. Next to the pledge of allegiance, he displayed historical Black figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Colin Powell, and George Washington Carver in his classroom because he wanted to motivate his students with figures that represented the students.

"I was sitting down in one of the children's chairs cutting something out, and I turned around and saw her start taking something off the bulletin board," James told the outlet.

James said when he questioned the analyst about why she was taking down the images, "she said something along the lines of it wasn't age-appropriate. Something like that."

James did not recall the employee mentioning race; however, he told the outlet that she confiscated an image of former President Barack Obama, which was near his desk as there was no room on the bulletin board saying the kids were too young.

"I didn't say anything else. I honestly let it go, but got to thinking about it and got pretty upset," James told PNJ. "I could have just sent it to the principal. But things need to get done. A lot of times people can just sweep things under the rug."

The following night after the incident, James emailed a letter to Gov. Ron Desantis and Tim Smith, the Superintendent of the Escambia County school district, recalling what he had witnessed, according to PNJ.

In a statement released on Thursday by Escambia County Public School obtained by Pensacola News Journal, the school district refuted the allegations made by James, stating that there were inaccuracies in his account.

The district claimed in the statement that two district employees, a behavioral coach and a behavioral analyst, were in the classroom that day to assist him in setting up his classroom to teach a small unit of students with ASD ( Autism Spectrum Disorder).

According to the statement, the behavior analyst told James that she actually appreciated the bulletin board displaying historical Black figures however it had to be dedicated to state-required curricular material specific to his student.

"The Behavior Analyst observed his bulletin board was 'Awesome,' because of the history tied to it, but the language and reading levels on the posters were too complex for this particular group of students," According to the statement obtained by PNJ.

The statement added that when asked if James minded if the displayed  images were removed, he said that they should "do whatever needs to be done."

"The instructional materials could have been displayed appropriately, and Mr. James's display could simultaneously have been honored. We were surprised these basic communicative steps were not taken by such a veteran teacher," the district said in the statement.

James responded to the statement on Thursday, writing to PNJ that the behavior analyst never mentioned state standards while taking down the images.

"The bulletin board I prepared was fully inline with state standards for this population and it's pure diversion to state otherwise," James told the outlet.

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