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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Maya Yang

Florida principal resigns after parents decry Michelangelo’s David as pornography

The original statue of Michelangelo's David.
The original statue of Michelangelo's David. Photograph: Paolo Lo Debole/Getty Images

A Florida principal has resigned after students at a Christian charter school in Tallahassee were shown the statue of the biblical figure David by Michelangelo, prompting at least one parent to complain that the children had been exposed to pornography.

Hope Carrasquilla resigned on Monday as principal of the Tallahassee Classical school after the campus’s governing board told her to either step down or be fired over parental complaints that came in after sixth-grade students were shown the 16th-century sculpture, one of the Renaissance’s most famous pieces of art.

While not directly related to the legislation, Carrasquilla made her decision to resign as far-right Florida governor Ron DeSantis pushes to expand a law prohibiting public schools from teaching sex education and gender identity. That law is part of a broader conservative movement advocating for so-called parents’ rights, which purport to give parents more of a say in their children’s education but – according to critics – is really a guise to advance a rightwing ideological agenda in schools.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported that one of the school’s parents called the image of Michelangelo’s David “pornographic”. Carrasquilla told HuffPost that the school’s usual protocol is to notify parents by letter when students are to be shown “potentially controversial” classical artwork. However, as a result of a “series of miscommunications”, the letter was not sent out to the sixth-graders’ parents before they were shown the David sculpture.

One parent “felt her child should not be viewing those pieces” and described being “point-blank upset”, Carrasquilla told the outlet.

Tallahassee Classical school is affiliated with Hillsdale College, a Michigan-based private conservative Christian institution. According to its website, the school aims to “train the minds and improve the hearts of young people through a content-rich classical education in the liberal arts and sciences, with instruction in the principles of moral character and civic virtue”.

In an interview with Slate, Tallahassee Classical school’s board chairperson Barney Bishop III said that the issue was not that Renaissance art was shown to students but rather that parents were not notified beforehand. The Washington Post reported that the lesson plan which featured the statue of David also included pictures of Michelangelo’s fresco painting The Creation of Adam and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, which both depict nudity.

“We have a practice,” Bishop said. “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.”

He added: “This year, we made an egregious mistake. We didn’t send that notice. Look, we’re not a public school. We’re a public charter. Parents, after they saw all the crap that’s being taught in public schools during [the Covid-19 pandemic] decided on their own that they didn’t want their children to be taught that.

“The rights of parents, that trumps the rights of kids.”

Last month, as part of his culture war against Bipoc and LGBTQ+ communities, DeSantis announced plans to prevent state colleges from having diversity, equity and inclusion programs, as well as programs on critical race theory.

The announcement follows the governor’s ban on African American advanced placement studies classes in January as well as all discussions of sexuality and gender identity in public schools.

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