According to the Pensacola News Journal, Michael James, a special education teacher at O.J. Semmes Elementary School, emailed Escambia County Superintendent Tim Smith and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis about an incident where a district employee removed images from his bulletin board of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Colin Powell, and George Washington Carver.
James told Pensacola News Journal that a "board-certified behavior analyst for the district" came to help set up his classroom on Monday (August 8) and took down his photos of Black American heroes because she believed they weren't "age appropriate."
The special education teacher noted that she also took a photo of former President Barack Obama that was sitting on his desk, which he planned to put on the board.
"She picked it up and said, 'You don't need to put this up either,'" James recalled. "She said — I can't remember exactly what she said — but she said, 'the kids are too young' or something like that. It floored me. I thought, 'This is the first Black president.'"
James said he had chosen the theme for the board to showcase leaders that his students, who are mostly Black, could look up to.
"It really floored me," James told the paper. "I've been teaching special education for 15 years, and it just really floored me when she did that."
After reporting the incident to the governor and superintendent, James officially resigned from his position as an exceptional student education (ESE) teacher on Tuesday (August 9).
Escambia County Public Schools spokesperson Cody Strother said in a statement that the district is investigating the incident.
"Our office was made aware of this employee's resignation and his stated reasons for resigning very early this morning, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. Around the same time, we were copied on an email written by this individual and released to the Governor's Office and various media outlets before we had any opportunity to investigate. We are now in the process of conducting a full investigation. If these allegations are deemed factual, we will certainly take corrective action, as it is our aim that all of our teachers feel valued and supported," the statement reads.