NewsNational News


Parents receive permission slips to see if kids can take part in Black History Month activity

Black History Month permission slip
Posted at 1:18 PM, Feb 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-18 13:18:24-05

As a parent, Chuck Walter said he’s used to signing papers that his children bring home from school. But Walter said a recent request from his daughter’s teacher caught him off guard.

Earlier this month, Walter was among the parents at Coral Way K-8 Center, a Miami-Dade County public school, who were asked to sign permission forms so their children could participate in a Black History Month activity.

According to a copy of the form obtained by CNN, parents were asked if they would give permission for their child to participate in a “Read Aloud,” which was described as an activity where “students will participate & listen to a book written by an African American.”

The event, which was held on Tuesday, listed types of guests that may attend as “fireman/doctor/artist.”  

Walter told CNN his daughter’s teacher said the permission form needed to be signed or she would be removed from class during the activity.

“I was a bit shocked. This is the first time that I’ve experienced this for school activity,” Walter said. “My first reaction was, ‘Let me share this with other parents and other people and get their perspective.’”

Walter posted an image of the permission slip he received on X, but didn’t share the name of the school, he said, to avoid backlash. The post has at least 13 million views and been reposted over 6,000 times as of Thursday, with some commenters expressing shock, confusion and anger that the school required the permission slip.

Black History Month permission slip
Parents were asked to sign permission forms so their children could participate in a Black History Month activity.

CNN reached out to the school for comment and was directed to contact the Miami-Dade County Public Schools district.

In a statement shared with CNN, the district acknowledged that the “description of the event may have caused confusion” among some parents, and that moving forward officials will emphasize the importance of clarity to schools.

“However, in compliance with State Law, permission slips were sent home because guest speakers would participate during a school-authorized education-related activity,” the district said.

Earlier this month, a parent whose child attends a different school in Miami-Dade County, told CNN affiliate WPLG that she also received a permission form for her child to participate in Black History Month events.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis addressed the backlash to the permission slips during a news conference Thursday, accusing schools of “virtue signaling” and critics of “trying to create phony narratives.”

“You had this incident in Miami where they did some permission slip, it was absurd,” DeSantis said. “There’s nothing in the state that required that, the state board of education immediately wrote a letter to the principal that said ‘knock it off, stop with the nonsense.’”

But the permission slips come as school districts and teachers across the state of Florida attempt to navigate a slate of so-called “parental rights” laws that empower parents to have a greater say over what children learn in Florida classrooms. 

In September 2022, the Florida Department of Education updated its guidance for field trips, extracurricular activities and supplemental programs to require activities to “be consistent with the Parental Bill of Rights,” and to require school districts to “fully inform parents of the details of field trips, extracurricular activities and supplemental programs.”

In April 2022, DeSantis signed the Individual Freedom Act into law, also known as the “Stop WOKE Act,” which is intended to prevent teachings or mandatory workplace activities that suggest a person is privileged or oppressed based necessarily on their race, color, sex or national origin, CNN previously reported. The law has faced several legal challenges since going into effect.

Although Florida has required lessons on Black history since 1994, many advocates have said schools across the state are failing to meet that mandate, and that laws like the Stop WOKE Act have a chilling effect, limiting what can be taught about race and racism in schools.

At a school board meeting earlier this month, John D. Pace III, deputy superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, said “schools do not require permission slips for the instruction of African American history,” but that forms should be used when there is an activity outside of the curriculum or when a guest presents at school.

“Miami-Dade public schools fully supports and provides instruction in African American history throughout the school year which is a requirement by the state of Florida,” Pace said during the meeting.

The district reiterated its stance in a statement posted to its website. 

“The overarching goal of social studies instruction is to prepare students to be knowledgeable, informed, and active citizens in an increasingly diverse community and nation and interdependent world,” the statement said. “Social Studies programs exist to promote civic competence and ensure that the values and ideals that have shaped our democratic republic continue to be instilled in our youth.”

At the February 7 school board meeting, Steve Gallon III, a District 1 school board member for Miami-Dade County Schools, said he was concerned Florida’s guidance on field trips and extracurricular activities was being misinterpreted.

“I’m sure that most of you have recently learned and heard of the rancor and the cacophony around the request for parents to complete a form to participate in related activities, related events, and my concern is that it appears that that request has extended to instruction. It has been amplified as a discourse because it most recently had been requested as a part of Black History Month activities,” Gallon said. “The policy as it reads currently may not be as problematic as what I perceive as the interpretation and implementation at school sites.”

Walter said as a parent he is concerned about the impact of the new rules and the effects they could ultimately have on students and their education.

“The school where my daughters attend is a predominantly Hispanic school and I was wondering if it were a predominantly Black elementary school, if they would have been sent the same permission slip,” he said. “So, who is making the decisions about when they need to get parents’ permission or not?”

Walter said a representative from Miami-Dade Schools messaged him on social media to inform him that they were looking into the matter and to ask him to verify the name of his daughter’s school.

He said he ultimately signed the permission form and his daughter participated in the event. But he also said he would like to see the policy that spurred teachers to send the slips during Black History Month reversed.

“I can only imagine if some of the parents hadn’t seen the permission slip that it would’ve created a strange divide and they would’ve been taken out of the class,” he said.
Walter praised his daughter’s school for continuing to hold activities and events “even in light of the extra burden being placed on teachers to request parental permission.”

He also said he and his family take steps to ensure his children learn about Black history at home, as well as in school, but he acknowledged that it might not be the case for all families.

“To say that they can opt out on a case-by-case basis because they don’t agree with certain concepts or philosophies, that definitely seems a bit strange to me,” he said.