A principal of a Tallahassee, Florida, charter school says she was forced to resign from her position of less than a year after a parent claimed that a class lesson about art from the Renaissance was pornographic because it included images from Michelangelo's famous nude "David" sculpture and other works from that time period.
"It saddens me that my time here had to end this way," the principal, Hope Carrasquilla, told the USA Today Network, after resigning from her job during an emergency board meeting this week.
No reason was given during the meeting about her resignation; but she said the school's board chairman, Barney Bishop, told her that she would either have to quit or be fired, and she believes the reason was because of the art lesson.
She said in a statement that Bishop "has expressed his displeasure with my leadership when parents became upset about policies or procedures not being followed to the 'T.' He 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."
Bishop said he couldn't say why he asked Carrasquilla to resign, citing the school employment lawyer's advice, but confirmed he'd given her the ultimatum.
Tallahassee Classical is a Hillsdale College curriculum school, and Renaissance art is a subject that is required teaching for students in the sixth grade.
However, three parents complained that the content, including the "David" sculpture; Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel fresco painting "Creation of Adam," which depicts the biblical figure Adam nude; and Botticelli's "Birth of Venus," which depicts a mostly nude goddess Venus emerging from the sea, had upset their children.
Two of the three parents said they wish they had been notified about the lesson before it happened, while the other complained it was pornographic, Carrasquilla said.
She added that a letter to notify parents about the lesson should have been sent out; but a breakdown in communications between herself, the art teacher, and the director of operations led to parents not being informed in advance.
Bishop said the board had passed a rule last month requiring parental notification two weeks in advance before any "potentially controversial" lessons are taught so they could review the curriculum and photos. A reminder notice is also to go out one week in advance, according to school board policy.
"Parental rights are supreme; and that means protecting the interests of all parents, whether it's one, 10, 20, or 50," he said.
However, some parents said they are frustrated with both the lack of communication from the school and the turnover of teachers. The board meeting, held at the last minute, didn't give parents time to hear what happened or to give input about Carrasquilla, they said.
Tallahassee Classical's affiliation with Hillsdale College was dropped last year after it failed to meet improvement standards, but the school regained its curriculum status.
Hillsdale, which is based in Michigan, says on its website that classical education is an important part of the Western tradition of the study of art, literature, philosophy, and the fine arts.
Bishop, meanwhile, says Tallahassee Classical will be on the "cutting edge" of Gov. Ron DeSantis' agenda on education, which includes the expansion of the Parental Rights in Education Act and later start times for students in middle and high schools.
DeSantis is also leading the move to ban lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity from grades 4 to 12. His proposal, which does not have to be approved by the state Legislature, will be voted on by the state Board of Education in April.
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