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After Misinformation Campaign, Miami-Dade School Board Approves Plan To Improve Teaching On Racism

Jessica Bakeman
Members of the Miami-Dade County School Board during a committee meeting early last year. The board met virtually on Wednesday to approve a new plan to tackle racism in the district.

The Miami-Dade County School Board voted 8-1 during a virtual meeting Wednesday night to review and enhance how the district teaches racism and empower a student task force to tackle the issue.

The proposal, however, became the target of a misinformation campaign.

Board members and district staff received more than 200 written comments and 400 phone calls, many of which opposed the proposal based on lies about what it purported to do.

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Some people wrote emails and social media posts claiming that the proposal would require a new curriculum developed by Black Lives Matter activists and that it included teaching about gay and transgender issues. Neither is true.

Board members also said they were accused of trying to “indoctrinate” children.

Board chair Perla Tabares Hantman said district receptionists who answered phones were exhausted and overwhelmed by the backlash.

“To be very, very conversative, I would say 70 percent or 80 percent of the time, it was all total misinformation and offensive to the board members,” Hantman said. “I am anything but naive or innocent, but I am very, very surprised about what has happened.”

“We’ve all been victims of an erroneous misinformation campaign targeted to undermine this item and the real issues behind the item,” said board member Lubby Navarro.

Marta Pérez was the only board member to vote against the proposal. She explained during a committee meeting last week she thought the plan to focus on anti-racism would “distract” from schools’ efforts to respond to COVID-19 and claimed the district’s record on inclusion has been stellar.

Pérez, who is Cuban American, said people who supported the proposal sent her emails telling her to “go back to Cuba.”

Jessica Bakeman is senior editor for news at WLRN, South Florida's NPR member station. Previously, Bakeman served as WLRN's education reporter for four years. Bakeman was awarded the 2020 Journalist of the Year award from the Florida chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.