SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – It was a hot button issue debated and discussed at a Sarasota County School Board meeting Tuesday night.
There were two very different schools of thought in attedance.
A local moms group, Concerned Parents of Sarasota Schools, packed the school board building in bright red t-shirts, holding signs, as they waited for their turn to speak.
Also attending the meeting were members of Black Lives Matter, chanting outside as the meeting filled up fast and was quickly at capacity.
At issue the debate of whether Black Lives Matter should be taught in the classroom as a part of the curriculum?
“If you’re a teacher, your child shouldn’t know what your political stance is. That’s not in the classroom, and that’s been part of the problem,” said Ashley Cote, a mother of a Sarasota second-grader and the founder of the moms’ group.
She says she’s furious that the Black Lives Matter movement is being taught, she says, in Sarasota County schools, calling it a radical, terrorist group.
“It makes me very angry, so angry that I want to do more about it,” she explained.
The two opposing groups clashed in the parking lots, offering opposing chants while public comment took place inside.
Parents in the group accuse board members of endorsing BLM material being taught in the classroom.
“That’s not okay, you don’t get to have an opinion as a teacher. You’re supposed to be non-partisan. That’s what we pay you for, we don’t pay you for your opinions,” said Kristen Brooks, a mom in the group.
A school board spokesperson says while BLM is necessarily a part of the curriculum, teachers have discussed the movement with students as part of current events.
BLM spokesperson, Sarah Parker, explained, “This is about black history being taught as an organization.”
Members of the BLM movement tell 8 On Your Side this moment in history should absolutely be taught in public schools, describing this as historical, urging teachers and school board members to “tell the truth.”
Local BLM members say it’s crucial to teach diversity and inclusion.
“To think that a couple a whiny people just frantically blew this so out of proportion,” said teacher Mary Holmes. “After seeing these parents here today, it’s alarming.
Parker added, “I don’t understand why this is even a debate honestly. We teach Math, Science, English, Spelling, and History. This is history.”
Many parents were upset by a video seen on BrainPop.com, a website utilized and paid for by school districts across the county, as a supplemental curriculum. The video shows cartoon characters discusses racism, both past and present.
Because the video comes with a written warning, the school district has flagged it, which prohibits teachers from accessing it on school property. It can, however, be seen by children at home on this school-sanctioned website.
A spokesperson for the district told 8 On Your Side, “We can’t stop what kids see at home. Teachers cannot show it at school.”
School board members also heard from the public on the matter of masks in the classroom. The board will vote on the matter on Oct. 20.