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‘It’s an injustice’: Leaders speak out over changes to Florida’s Black history teaching standards

ORLANDO, Fla. — Central Florida leaders are speaking out against changes made by the Florida Department of Education about what students will learn about African American history.

On Wednesday, the state Board of Education met in Orlando and unanimously approved new academic standards for teaching Black history in public schools.

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Florida’s academic standards for social studies are 216 pages. The changes to the benchmark clarifications change how and what is taught about African American history.

“I think the Black history speaks for itself, I don’t think it needs to be changed at all, the history is what it is,” Florida Sen. Randolph Bracy said.

Read: Florida Board of Education approves new African American history standards despite opposition

He said the change could impact how generations of Floridians learn about Black history.

“I think it’s a scary thought to what will happen if people are taught something differently than what actually happened...But I know it’s an injustice,” Bracy said.

Florida Den. Geraldine Thompson said the standards have been, “sugar-coated,” “watered down” and “white-washed.”

Read: Harris targets Florida rules on Black history pushed by DeSantis

“You have these standards that are trying to conform with the law and in order not to make people feel uncomfortable,” Thompson said.

Under the rules, middle school students will learn, “how slaves developed skills which in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit,” framing of slavery local leaders say came without their input.

“I’m the founder of the Wellsbuilt Museum of African American History. I’ve authored books. I’m a member of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. I was not invited,” Thompson said.

Read: College Board releases statement about Florida’s rejection of AP African American Studies course

In high school, if students learn about things like the 1920 Ocoee Massacre that killed at least 50 African Americans who were trying to vote, teachers must include, “acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans.”

Watch: The Ocoee Massacre: A Documentary Film

“You focus on violence by African Americans. So that’s a distortion. And I think we need to go back,” Thompson said.

The standards are designed to guide lessons from kindergarten to high school in the state. Critics call it a push backward instead of a look into the future.

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.

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