A Florida charter school principal says she was forced to resign after parents complained about a Renaissance art lesson in which images of Michelangelo’s David were shown to students.
Hope Carrasquilla told The Tallahassee Democrat that she resigned from her position at Tallahassee Classical School on Monday after the school’s board chair, Barney Bishop, presented her with an ultimatum last week: resign or be fired. Bishop, a lobbyist and supporter of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) “Parental Rights” educational agenda, confirmed that he had given Carrasquilla the ultimatum, but would not say why citing advice from the school’s employment lawyer.
Carrasquilla believes she was forced out after three parents complained about a sixth-grade art lesson in which an art teacher showed images of Michelangelo’s David and The Creation of Adam along with Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. They claimed that the lesson upset their children. Two reportedly said they wished they had been notified beforehand, while a third alleged that the lesson was “pornographic.”
Tallahassee Classical School follows the Hillsdale College curriculum, which “emphasizes the centrality of the Western tradition in the study of history, literature, philosophy, and the fine arts.” The curriculum requires Renaissance art to be taught in sixth grade. But last month, the school’s board passed a new rule requiring parents to be notified two weeks before anything “potentially controversial” is taught. Carrasquilla and Bishop have both said that parents should have been notified ahead of the art lesson in question, but a letter was never sent.
Carrasquilla, the school’s third principal since it opened three years ago, said that Bishop “has expressed his displeasure with my leadership when parents became upset about policies or procedures not being followed to the ‘T.’ He was more concerned about litigation and appeasing a small minority of parents, rather than trusting my expertise as an educator for more than 25 years.”
In a combative interview with Slate’s Dan Kois, Bishop pushed back on the idea that Carrasquilla was pushed out over the David images. “We don’t have any problem showing David,” he said. “You have to tell the parents ahead of time, and they can decide whether it is appropriate for their child to see it.”
Bishop said that one parent had also taken issue with the fact that the art teacher had told students that the statue was “nonpornographic” and that they should not tell their parents about it. “Nonpornography—that’s a red flag. And of course telling the students, ‘Don’t tell your parents’ – that’s a huge red flag!” he said.
“That word is inappropriate in that classroom. No. 1, no one said it was pornography. No. 2, it’s not on the curriculum. No. 3, you don’t need to be saying that word in a classroom in Florida!” he continued.
Bishop has said that Tallahassee Classical School will be on the “cutting edge” of the DeSantis administration’s anti-LGBTQ+ Parental Rights agenda, including the governor’s push to expand the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. The law currently bans discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K–3 and restricts discussions of those issues up to grade 12. DeSantis is trying to expand it to include all grade levels.
“We agree with everything the governor is doing in the educational arena. We support him because he’s right,” Bishop said. “The whole woke indoctrination going on about pronouns and drag queens isn’t appropriate in school.”
In the Slate interview, Bishop suggested that parents, rather than trained educators, would dictate what is taught in Florida schools.
“We’re not gonna have courses from the College Board. We’re not gonna teach 1619 or CRT crap,” he said. “Teachers are the experts? Teachers have all the knowledge? Are you kidding me? I know lots of teachers that are very good, but to suggest they are the authorities, you’re on better drugs than me.”