TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — The line between art and pornography is at the center of an education dispute after a Florida charter school principal resigned following accusations that middle school students were shown inappropriate adult content.
At issue? Students in the school were shown images of Michelangelo’s Renaissance period sculpture “David,” leading to complaints that the children were shown pornographic material.
Tallahassee Classical School, a private institution focused on “training the minds and improving the hearts of young people through a content-rich classical education in the liberal arts and sciences, with instruction in the principles of moral character and civic virtue,” gave its principal an ultimatum to quit or be fired after three parents complained, according to reports by the Tallahassee Democrat.
“David” is a Renaissance Period sculpture depicting biblical hero David of the famous David and Goliath tale, holding his sling in the nude and standing at over five meters tall. The statue itself, sculpted by Michelangelo Buonarroti in the early 1500s, is currently on display in Florence’s Galleria dell’ Accademia.
Principal Hope Carrasquilla, according to the Democrat, resigned Monday after the school board chair told her to resign or be fired. Chair Barney Bishop confirmed to the Democrat that he gave Carrasquilla that ultimatum, but would not explain why due to “advice” from the school’s attorney. Parents were informed by email on Monday.
According to further reporting on the topic by the Huffington Post, the issue, at least in part, was that a protocol to inform parents in advance of showing similar types of artwork was not sent out to sixth-grade parents before the lesson due to “miscommunications.”
Bishop told the Tallahassee Democrat that the notification policy at Tallahassee Classical was relatively recent, and required a parental notification two weeks before “potentially controversial” materials are shown.
Speaking with HuffPost, Bishop claimed that the sculpture issue was “one of multiple” issues involving Carrasquilla. He also told the news organization that he was lobbying for legislation to give parents even more control over students’ primary education, saying that “parental rights trump everything else,” and saying that the parents who complained “didn’t like the woke indoctrination that was going on.”
Parental rights, as related to Florida education and curriculum, have become increasingly politicized over the past several years, with public debate and argument on the topic headlining multiple news stories related to teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity, COVID-19 masking policies, and critical race theory, among others.
State officials, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, have prioritized changing Florida laws and educational curriculum to remove so-called indoctrination at every level of education.
The current legislative session in the state legislature has multiple education and curriculum-focused bills going through both chambers at this time, including bans on CRT degrees in higher education, and moves to make school board elections partisan.
According to the Tallahassee Classical site, the school is affiliated with private Christian institution Hillsdale College, which as made news in recent months as a model that Florida officials want to use to reformat Sarasota’s New College of Florida. Hillsdale has reportedly been advising the charter school since it opened in fall 2020.