It should surprise absolutely no one that education officials in Florida can’t imagine students not being on board with their obsession with banning books and fighting their propaganda war against critical race theory. It must be “indoctrination” right? Because young people couldn’t possibly possess the critical thinking capacity to decide for themselves that the conservative gatekeeping of education is less about protecting students and more about protecting social regressives from their own fragility.
According to WESH 2, an Orange County middle school teacher was placed on administrative leave over a series of TikTok videos where he and his students mocked the decision to ban books in order to comply with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ white fragility laws disguised as education reform.
“Orange County Public Schools will not tolerate the use of our children as political pawns by anyone, including a classroom teacher,” the district said in reference to the videos recorded by Ethan Hooper, a Black sixth-grade language arts teacher at Howard Middle School. “Any employee who creates videos or other content with students in an effort to exploit them for political purposes will be immediately removed from the classroom, placed on administrative leave, and swift action will be taken to terminate employment.”
Superintendent Maria Vazquez echoed the same sentiments in her own statement.
“I am appalled at the behavior and judgment of the teacher who posted the inappropriate videos using his students as political props,” Vazquez said. “This is not free speech—it is the exploitation of our students for political purposes, and it will not be tolerated in our school district.”
First of all—nah, this is absolutely about free speech. Conservatives have this tendency to try to dictate what free speech is or isn’t based solely on the content of the speech. If a teacher recorded a video with students praising America as the totally-not-racist “shining city on a hill” while leg-humping the American flag and passionately singing the national anthem like it was a holy hymn dedicated to Proud Boy Jesus, you can bet right-wing officials would defend that video as free speech as well as an inspiring show of patriotism by the youth of “real America.” But when students are showing their contempt for conservative fearmongering and censorship, well, those students couldn’t possibly be thinking for themselves. It must be political “indoctrination” and it must be eliminated at all costs.
As it turns out, the only people who appear to be speaking for the students and using them as “political pawns” are the officials who are trying to make victims out of young people who have rejected their attempts at ideological indoctrination.
One student in the video said she doesn’t think they were used in a political way. She also said it was their idea. They recorded the videos during lunch.
“We all agreed to it,” said Jaida Jackson, who appeared in one of the videos. “He didn’t really do anything wrong.”
She said other students in her class agreed and want Hooper back in the classroom soon.
“None of them think that this should be really happening. He’s one of my favorite teachers. He’s probably the best. It’s just not fair,” Jackson said.
OK, we must only be talking about students of color here, right? Because certainly Caucasian students, who Florida officials say are the true victims of racially-charged curriculum that makes them feel terrible about being white, aren’t participating in these videos. They couldn’t be—right?
OK, but what about the parents? Surely, the parents are speaking out against Hooper and his disgusting child-pawn operation—correct?
More from WESH:
Jackson’s mom said she and other mothers support Hooper.
“The fact that the students really devised the content specifically means that it’s something that matters to them. And to say that they were used as pawns is false,” said Jackson’s mother, Shauna Thompson.
One video showed them reading books like “Harry Potter” and other books that deal with diversity and acceptance, such as “Wonder” and “Class Act.” This comes as school districts work to figure out which books are allowed according to new education reform laws signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“The other example my daughter showed me was for Black History Month. They put some Black students on the chairs, and then the white students were fanning them and making them comfortable. You know, it’s awesome, it’s beautiful, it’s celebratory, and I loved it,” Thompson said.
Thompson, a former educator, says she talked to other parents with students in the videos. They don’t think Hooper did anything wrong, and the kids have questions.
“A lot of them are feeling guilt because when you love somebody, you want to protect them, and they’re so young, they don’t understand what’s happening. Why are adults coming for our favorite teacher?” Thompson asked.
Another mother sent a statement supporting Hooper, saying, “He did nothing wrong. It’s so sad. My daughter said they were simply doing skits. I saw one of the videos, and it’s nothing bad at all. She was in tears and said that’s one of her favorite teachers that takes time and allows all students, no matter race or gender, to be themselves.”
Despite the fact that no one appears to be bothered by these videos besides overly sensitive district officials on the outside looking in, Hooper felt compelled to issue an apology for, well, doing absolutely nothing wrong.
“It was in good fun. There was no political agenda behind it. It’s being maliciously used, and I am deeply apologetic toward the students and parents of those involved. I am also sorry to the students who weren’t involved,” Hooper said. “I want to be an example for them. If this does not match up with what they viewed, I am truly sorry. My heart is for my students and the parents, first and foremost.”
Those students and parents aren’t mad though. It’s just that these officials are a bunch of bullies and closeted bigots (and I’m being generous with the use of “closeted”) who are trying to beat everyone into submission who isn’t behind their educational propaganda campaign.
It’s pathetic. It’s also America.
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