A charter school principal in Tallahassee, Fla., has lost her job after giving an art lesson that included Michelangelo’s David, the famous statue that depicts the biblical figure nude.
The board at Tallahassee Classical School wouldn’t say why Hope Carrasquilla was pushed out, but Carrasquilla told the Tallahassee Democrat that she believes the art lesson was the reason. She said Barney Bishop, the board chair, told her she had to resign or she would be fired, and she resigned Monday at an emergency board meeting.
“It saddens me that my time here had to end this way,” Carrasquilla told the Democrat. She had been principal for less than a year.
She said three parents had complained that their children were upset by the lesson on Renaissance art, which included the David statue. Two said they would have preferred to be notified about it in advance, while one called it pornographic. Parents should have been notified, Carrasquilla said, but there was a breakdown in communications, so no letter went out.
Tallahassee Classical, which opened in 2020, models its curriculum on that of Hillsdale College, a famously conservative school in Michigan. The curriculum requires teaching about Renaissance art in sixth grade.
Bishop, in an interview with Slate, initially refused to say why Carrasquilla was asked to resign, citing personnel confidentiality concerns. But he then said the David statue “was an issue, along with many others.”
In not notifying parents, he said, “We didn’t follow a practice. We have a practice. Last year, the school sent out an advance notice about it. Parents should know: In class, students are going to see or hear or talk about this. This year, we didn’t send out that notice. … We made an egregious mistake.”
He expressed support for Gov. Ron DeSantis, who last year signed the Parental Rights in Education bill, also known as the “don’t say gay or trans” bill, into law. “Parents are the ones who are going to drive the education system here in Florida,” Bishop told Slate. “The governor said that, and we’re with the governor. … Parents choose this school because they want a certain kind of education. We’re not gonna have courses from the College Board. We’re not gonna teach 1619 or CRT crap.”
He was referring to The 1619 Project, a New York Times series on slavery and its legacy that has been published as a book, and critical race theory, an academic approach that informs college and graduate school courses rather than K-12 school lessons.
To the Democrat, he said, “We agree with everything the governor is doing in the educational arena. We support him because he’s right. … The whole woke indoctrination going on about pronouns and drag queens isn’t appropriate in school.”
The Florida State Board of Education is set to adopt a rule, backed by DeSantis, expanding the “don’t say gay or trans” law to cover all grades. It currently bans instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3 and requires — vaguely — that it be age-appropriate thereafter.
Bishop is a business lobbyist and runs a consulting firm. He is a former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, but he changed his registration to Republican about a year ago.
Carrasquilla released a statement saying Bishop “was more concerned about litigation and appeasing a small minority of parents, rather than trusting my expertise as an educator for more than 25 years.”
Her replacement will be Cara Wynn, who was previously with North Florida Christian School. Wynn will be Tallahassee Classical’s third principal in three years.