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Black History Teacher Takes Florida Education Standards Complaints to the UN

MIAMI – A Miami-Dade teacher packed her bags to haul complaints about Florida education standards overseas to the United Nations.

Renee O’Connor, nominated for Miami-Dade Public Schools Teacher of the Year in 2022, is on sabbatical. She taught African-American History elective and AP courses for 12 years. That changed this summer when she saw new guidelines for colleagues in middle schools to begin teaching students “How slaves developed skills in which some instances could be applied for their personal benefit.”

“It was that moment that was really the nail in the coffin for me,” O’Connor said. “I think when you’re in the classroom you have to worry about what your principal is going to say, what the district is going to feel about a teacher standing up for herself, for her students and for this really important class. Since I am not in the classroom (I) have opportunity to do things such as go to Geneva.”

Members of Florida’s Community Justice Project invited O’Connor and three others to travel with a group scheduled to meet the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Along with representatives of Dream Defenders, Florida Rising, Power U Center for Social Change, Novo Collegian Alliance, and SURU, the Community Justice Project published a 16-page report called “Florida: A Shadow Over the Sunshine State.”

The report published September 12th chronicles what authors consider “alarming and rapidly metastasizing developments in Florida under Governor Ron DeSantis.” The report claims state tactics “stoke fear” in marginalized communities, restrict freedom of expression, stifle truth in education, and attacks immigrant communities.

CBS News Miami emailed and called Governor DeSantis’ office for comment. They did not provide one.

Last month, the governor and Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. celebrated an American Legislative Exchange Council study that ranked Florida the number one state in the country for Education Freedom. The study ranked the Sunshine State #1 in open enrollment, funding and financing programs.

“This new ranking further proves that Florida is the national leader in education,” Governor DeSantis said in a September press release on the Florida Department of Education website. “By focusing on academic achievement, expanding school choice and empowering parents, Florida continues to see unprecedented success in our classrooms.”

“Florida’s commitment to education shines through ALEC’s ranking, which has Florida leading the country in education freedom,” Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. said in the same press release. “Florida’s dedication to universal school choice and protection of parental rights is the reason why Florida stands ahead of the rest.”

Still, the UN’s Human Rights Committee invited the Community Justice Project’s group to testify about problems in Florida next week in Geneva, Switzerland.

O’Connor, Miami Northwestern Senior High School student Ebony Felton, May 2023 graduate New College of Florida Madison Markham, and Maven Leadership Collective founder Corey Davis will testify. All provided written statements.

O’Connor expects to have one minute to speak. Her speech is ready.

“I hope that my voice will be the voice of teachers that are afraid to speak up or don’t have the opportunity to speak up,” O’Connor said. “I’m really doing this for all my students.”

Source : CBSNews