Is Shakespeare ‘to be or not to be’ taught in Hillsborough Schools this year?

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hillsborough County’s new acting superintendent says there has been confusion this year over what can and can not be taught in schools this year, because of a new state law.

Acting Superintendent Van Ayers emailed a statement to parents Wednesday saying in part; “To be clear, we are teaching Shakespeare in a variety of ways in high schools, everything from short excerpts to full novel readings, based on the standards for the course a student takes. Shakespeare has been a foundation of our literary teaching for decades. This instructional plan follows state law.”

Earlier in the week, a spokesperson for the school system said some elements of Shakespeare of a sexual nature could not be presented in classrooms because of the new state law, but that the works of Shakespeare would still be available if students wanted to read them on their own.

The Florida Department of Education also sent out a statement on the issue saying, “The Florida Department of Education in no way believes Shakespeare should be removed from Florida classrooms. In fact, eight works by Shakespeare are included in the sample text list within the B.E.S.T. Standards for English Language Arts, including Hamlet, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet.”

Trisha Long is a parent of a middle school student in Hillsborough County and a member of Families for Strong Public Schools.

She says she is frustrated with the decision to limit the works of Shakespeare and the vagueness of the new state standards.

“It seems to me that it’s gone way too far in it’s idea that these things must be pornographic, when in fact they are just describing human life, they don’t meet the legal definition of porn,” said Long.

Long believes students are being deprived when they are only taught certain segments of Shakespeare’s work.

“It’s a shame because I think our kids are going to suffer for not having the ability to read this literature in class and discuss it,” said Long.

The President of the Hillsborough County Classroom Teachers Association says teachers are also confused by the new state laws and their attorneys are meeting with teachers so they know what they’re legally able to teach in class this year.