St. Johns County

Critical Race Theory concerns cited for cancelation of Flagler professor’s teacher training seminar

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — A Flagler College history professor is raising questions after a teacher training seminar he was scheduled to give on the Civil Rights Movement in Osceola County was abruptly canceled.

The school district cited concerns his seminar may violate the state’s ban on Critical Race Theory.

Dr. Mike Butler told us this is the first time he’s had an event like this canceled.

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He said the Osceola County School District never even requested any of the materials he planned to use in the seminar.

He forwarded the PowerPoint presentation to us and it only contains a list of historical incidents and photos.

“It was a historical presentation that’s based on facts and evidence. It had nothing to do with Critical Race Theory,” Butler said.

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He believes the district is attempting to censor the history of the Civil Rights Movement.

“If this topic can be censored, then any topic that makes people potentially uncomfortable could be potentially censored,” Butler said.

Osceola School Board Member Jon Arguello said Butler’s presentation was only delayed initially, pending a review by a citizen curriculum committee.

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An email from the district superintendent claims the district couldn’t reschedule the training and had to cancel.

“If he has a problem being reviewed before he delivers a training, then you have to question his intentions,” Arguello said.

Arguello called Butler’s response to the incident political and believes canceling the event was the right call.

“If he was coming here and his intent was to be non-ideological, non-political, it’s not demonstrated by his remarks after the fact,” Arguello said.

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However, another school board member Terry Castillo told us the state’s ban on CRT in schools has made navigating subjects like the Civil Rights Movement more difficult.

“My concern is more on making sure that we are protecting our teachers and making sure that we’re not inadvertently exposing them to something that could later be considered a violation of what the Governor has put out,” Castillo said.

She said there’s a lot riding on the line if the district fails to comply.

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“We are in peril of losing funds. We are in danger of having someone come down and taking over our district and telling us how to do our jobs if we don’t comply,” Castillo said.

And that’s what makes Butler most concerned.

“It’s concerning for those of us who teach difficult topics for a living,” Butler said.

With the State Legislature now considering a bill that would not only codify the CRT ban in schools, but also ban it being taught by private employers, Castillo said she hopes lawmakers provide more clarity on what actually constitutes Critical Race Theory to avoid confusion going forward.

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