A school textbook publisher seeking approval from Florida state regulators removed all references to Rosa Parks’ race in materials submitted for review, just one of many tweaks and workarounds Studies Weekly made to secure a shot at Florida’s lucrative list of approved curriculum, the New York Times reported Thursday.
Studies Weekly’s existing lesson on Parks currently being taught to some Florida first graders states “The law said African Americans had to give up their seats on the bus if a white person wanted to sit down.” But the version recently submitted for Florida reviewers said “She was told to move to a different seat because of the color of her skin” – then updated a final time to say only “She was told to move to a different seat.”
Florida is one of about a dozen states that approve academic texts above the district level. One year after dozens of math books were infamously rejected in Florida, social studies books are now being scrutinized by a small army of academic experts, educators, political activists and parents. Among the things they’re flagging is violations of the law signed last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis prohibiting the teaching of critical race theory in public schools.
Studies Weekly publishes science and social studies materials used in 45,000 schools around the United States, including some Florida elementary classrooms. The publisher said it was “trying to follow Florida’s standards, including the Stop W.O.K.E. Act,” the Times reported.
The Florida Department of Education told the paper that Studies Weekly had “overreached,” adding that any book that “avoids the topic of race when teaching the Civil Rights movement, slavery, segregation, etc. would not be adhering to Florida law,” which requires instruction on Black history.
The Times said it also found that Studies Weekly had made similar changes to a fourth-grade lesson about segregation laws during Reconstruction. An initial submission that repeatedly mentioned how African Americans were affected by the laws was changed to say that “certain groups” of people were affected.
It was mostly for naught, however: The Florida Department of Education said it rejected Studies Weekly because of a bureaucratic snafu in its submissions.