Teachers in Florida are accustomed to new having new state mandates thrown at them almost every year, so they have to be nimble and adaptable.
“I’m OK with the changes that we’ve seen in the English curriculum, where there’s more emphasis on literature, poetry, fiction, whereas in the past, the recent past, there’s been an emphasis on non-fiction,” said Eddie Cruz, who teaches 10th grade English at Jose Marti MAST Academy.
NBC 6 and Telemundo 51 conducted an unscientific survey of public school teachers in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. 1,384 teachers responded to our questionnaire. When it comes to the new state laws, our survey showed 68% of teachers had concerns.
“They’ve made education into something political,” said Jim Gard, who teaches math at Monarch High School.
54% of the respondents oppose the Parental Rights in Education law, the so-called "don’t say gay" law, with 28% supporting it. One teacher wrote in our survey, “These discussions before third grade need to take place at home!”
But other teachers are worried the law will stigmatize LGBTQ kids at a high level.
“They already have a high suicide rate to begin with,” Gard said.
“If we’re banned from talking about these sensitive topics, we cannot help students," said Natan Samuels, who teaches science at Jose Marti MAST Academy, "and if the students are having those problems in their daily life, we don’t know what’s gonna happen with them and it’s actually a little bit scary.”
Only a small percentage in our survey support the Individual Freedom Act, which limits what teachers can say about racial issues, with critics calling it state censorship, while one supporter said it prevents indoctrination, writing in our survey, “Teachers should not use the captive audience, meaning students, to vent their frustration with the system, their personal views on social issues, or personal values.”
However, the law has other consequences as well.
“I teach law and I’m being told I need to get rid of a book that is an annotation of the Constitution, and I think history, teaching history, is how we teach future generations how to learn from our mistakes of the past,” said Kristin Murphy, who teaches at Nova Middle School.
Our survey also asked teachers about school security. A majority said they felt their school districts were doing enough on security issues and they felt safe on campus. Interestingly, at the same time, almost 80% said the state was not doing enough to keep teachers and students safe at school.