Escambia County School Superintendent Tim Smith apologized Thursday for a diversity training video that all district employees were required to watch.
The intention of the video was to train teachers and staff on how to educate and interact with students of a different race. The video showed several scenarios in which white teachers and adults showed perceived racial biases against African Americans before stating that staff members and teachers should be aware of their biases. (A link to the video can be found at the bottom of this article.)
“This video was not intended to offend, anger or divide our employees or anyone,” Smith said, reading a prepared statement. “I apologize.”
“The idea for the video was mine and I asked for it to be shared with all employees in the district. Our goal as a district is to close the achievement gap between our white and black students in English and math. These differences are 34% and 35%. This video has no impact or connection with the curriculum. We are in full and 100% compliance with the recent State Board of Education ruling on Critical Race Theory.
“We need to start closing the success gap. The question is how? Clear answers may not be readily available, but we can only do it with mutual agreement… My hope is that we can move forward united and determined to reach all students, ”said Smith.
Only black and white races were included in the video.
Board member Kevin Adams said he saw the video during continuing education as a bus driver.
“It stunned me. Thirty-eight years with the Department of Defense with the United States Navy doing diversity training every year, I’ve never seen anything like it, ”Adams said. “I think it should be taken out. I think this video should no longer be shown. It was a division, and we don’t need it. We all need to come together as a team. “
Adams said he wanted future policy-related articles to be presented at a school board workshop before being distributed throughout the county. “This is not the place for politics; policies should be developed here (in front of the school board). Unless my lawyer tells me otherwise, we don’t develop policy during training.
“I think video is definitely not the right tact for us,” said Board member Paul Festsko. “I would appreciate it, sir, if it were withdrawn and no longer mandatory.” “
“I am the godmother of 47 children and they are not depressed,” community member B. Thomas told the board. “I was very disturbed by this video. It gave the impression that we had a problem in the school system.
“It’s inappropriate. We are not oppressed, ”continued Thomas, who is African American. “Yeah, I’m angry about it. I think it’s a racial theory that you want it to be in the system, but it’s not going to work.
Alice Downs, a 20-year elementary school teacher in Escambia County, said the video was a mandatory “viewing party” for employees, and that they were required to sign a Google form stating that they ‘had watched. She said there were “seven completely racist white scenes depicted in the video… You are taught to be racist. These children are not racists. They love each other.”
“I really hope this video was not shown to students at Montclair Elementary School where it was filmed and where the show helped make the video,” Downs continued. “What kind of impression do you think it left on them?” They were able to watch scene after scene and scene after scene of white racists. What type of packaging is it? And also what kind of impression did it give to the two white child actors in the video who had to rehearse this scene several times. Practice racism. The overall message is valid, but the way they pitted us against each other, I don’t believe it. You’ve totally missed the mark on this, Superintendent, and you’ve got a lot of upset teachers of all races. No Asian was in this video; no Hispanics were in this video.
Mike Hill, an insurance agent and former state official, said the video was humiliating both for black children and for teachers. He said the attempt to close the achievement gap between black and white college students is laudable, but the video fails to accomplish the task.
“It gives too many black children the idea that they are victims, that they have a victim mentality,” he said.
Hill said part of the linguistics video was particularly appalling because it suggested that teachers should try to communicate with students using Ebonics.
“Ebonics is nothing more than poor English,” he said. “English is the international language of finance. The better you write and speak English, the more money you earn. We should teach these children how to improve their English skills, not to accept when their English skills do not reach the correct level.
To watch the 22 minute video, posted by Escambia County Citizen Larry Downs, click or tap here.
Pictured: Scenes from “Diversity, Equity and Closing the Achievement Gap” were to be viewed for all teachers and staff in the Escambia County School District.