PENSACOLA, Fla. (WFLA) — A Pensacola elementary school teacher reportedly quit the day before school started after a district employee allegedly took down pictures of Black heroes he had on the wall of his classroom.
According to the Pensacola News Journal, Michael James, formerly a teacher at O.J. Semmes Elementary School, sent a letter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Escambia County Superintendent Tim Smith Monday, saying a district employee allegedly removed his posters for being “age inappropriate.” The report says pictures that were taken down include ones of Martin Luther King Jr., Colin Powell, Harriett Tubman and George Washington Carver.
James resigned Tuesday morning, just one day before the new school year started. He told PNJ he put the posters up because a majority of the students were Black and he wanted to motivate them with inspirational people they could “look up to and see themselves.”
The district’s superintendent responded to the incident, telling the news outlet that teachers are allowed to decorate their classrooms with educational materials. According the report, the superintendent said he was unaware of a policy that would have stopped the teacher from putting up pictures of “inspirational American heroes.”
The district gave a statement that said they’re going to investigate the incident.
According to PNJ, James identified the employee who took down the photos as a board certified behavior analyst for the district. The report says the employee came into James’ classroom on Monday to help him set up for the upcoming school year and, at some point, started taking the pictures down.
James told PNJ when he asked the employee what they were doing, they said the pictures were “age inappropriate.” James said the employee also took a picture of Barack Obama off his desk.
James resigned shortly after the incident, saying he couldn’t work for a district that would “condone such behavior,” a report said.
He quit as many schools in Florida and nationwide are experiencing teacher shortages.
James is now looking for a new teaching job.