Jacksonville Teacher Can Reapply for License After Black Lives Matter Flag Dispute

Jacksonville Teacher Can Reapply for License After Black Lives Matter Flag Dispute | Future Education Magazine



A former Jacksonville, Florida, teacher, Amy Donofrio, who was dismissed for displaying a Black Lives Matter flag outside her classroom, has been granted the opportunity to reapply for her teaching license. This decision came after a five-member panel of Florida’s Education Practices Commission agreed with an administrative judge’s recommendation for a written reprimand instead of license revocation. Mark Richard, Donofrio’s attorney, confirmed this outcome to CNN.

Donofrio, who was accused of bringing her personal views into the classroom, expressed her unwavering support for her students. “Black lives matter, and they are worth fighting for 100 percent every single day,” she stated post-hearing. Her ultimate goal is to return to teaching, as her contract was not renewed following the 2020-21 school year. Richard hailed the decision as a victory for teachers across Florida, emphasizing the ability to stand up to a system that has been antagonistic towards educators.

Background of the Dispute

The controversy surrounding Donofrio began during the 2020-21 school year when she displayed a large Black Lives Matter banner outside her classroom at Robert E. Lee High School, now renamed Riverside High School. This act followed the murder of George Floyd and was part of Donofrio’s long-standing advocacy for racial justice. Despite administrators’ concerns and requests to remove the banner, Donofrio refused, arguing that it did not violate school policy. Eventually, a school administrator removed the banner in March 2021, leading to Donofrio’s reassignment to a district warehouse the following day.

Additionally, Donofrio faced criticism for displaying face masks with the phrase “Robert E. Lee was a gang member” as the district undertook the renaming of schools named after Confederate generals. Donofrio argued that these masks, commonly worn during the pandemic, were part of her students’ advocacy and did not constitute a personal viewpoint.

Administrative law judge Suzanne Van Wyk’s April recommendation acknowledged that Donofrio’s actions did not cause harm and there was no substantial evidence that she failed to separate her personal views from her professional responsibilities. The Education Practices Commission’s decision followed this recommendation, opting for a written reprimand instead of more severe penalties.

Impact on Florida’s Education Climate

The decision regarding Donofrio comes amid broader educational and cultural battles in Florida, driven by policies under Governor Ron DeSantis. These include restrictions on teaching about sexual orientation, gender identity, racism, and American history, as well as limitations on what books students can read and what bathrooms they can use. Governor DeSantis has been vocal about his stance, emphasizing education over what he considers indoctrination.

Donofrio’s case became a focal point in these culture wars, with her advocacy for racial justice and support for her Black students often spotlighted. Despite facing opposition, including public accusations of promoting critical race theory, Donofrio maintained her commitment to her students and their right to a supportive educational environment. Her students rallied in her defense, amassing nearly 18,000 signatures in a petition for her reinstatement.

Former Jacksonville teacher at center of controversy for not removing black lives matter flag gets $300k settlement

In 2021, Donofrio sued Duval County Public Schools, alleging retaliation for her protected speech and support of Black students. The district settled the lawsuit for $300,000. Donofrio’s dedication to her students and her role in founding the EVAC Movement, which gained national attention and involved interactions with political leaders, further highlighted her impact on student empowerment and racial justice.

Looking ahead, Donofrio remains hopeful about resuming her teaching career and continuing her advocacy. Her lawyer, Mark Richard, emphasized the broader implications of her case for teachers committed to honest education and historical accuracy. Donofrio’s experience underscores the ongoing tensions within Florida’s education system and the resilience of educators dedicated to their students’ well-being and education.

This case, with its significant implications, continues to resonate in the context of Florida’s educational policies and the national conversation on racial justice and academic freedom.

Also Read: Florida Board Of Education Passes Contentious Black History Curriculum Guidelines

Most Popular Stories