A Florida school principal resigned on Monday after parents complained that her Renaissance art syllabus was inappropriate for a sixth-grade class. The controversy started after the school children were shown Michelangelo’s David, which one parent called “pornographic,” the Tallahassee Democrat first reported earlier this week.
In a now-viral interview with Slate, the chair of the school’s board, Barney Bishop III, said that the administration did not take issue with the sculpture, but the teacher’s description of it to the children as “nonpornographic picture” and the lack of advance notice.
“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. I know they do all that up in Virginia,” Bishop said. “The rights of parents, that trumps the rights of kids. Teachers are the experts? Teachers have all the knowledge? Are you kidding me?”
Hope Carrasquilla, the now-former principal of Tallahassee Classical School, told HuffPost Thursday that the standard protocol is to notify parents ahead of lessons on classical artwork, but due to a “series of miscommunications,” a picture of the marble masterpiece was unveiled without warning in all its sinewy splendor.
According to Carrasquilla, one parent felt “point-blank upset” and that “her child should not be viewing” the 16th-century Renaissance sculpture, which depicts David, a figure from the Old Testament’s Book of Samuel made famous for his fight against the giant Goliath.
The Tallahassee Democrat reported that Tallahassee Classical School, a charter school, has now seen three principals resign or be fired since it opened in 2020. Carasquilla was at the helm for for less than a year.
The school follows the “classical education curriculum model” popular in Florida primary education. The pedagogical model stresses the “centrality of the Western tradition,” or, as the Tampa Bay Times describes it, “a historical focus on white, Western European and Judeo-Christian foundations.” The model is most used in Charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated, though conservative legislators in the state have made moves to widen its influence.
“Showing the entire statue of David is appropriate at some age,” said Bishop. “We’re going to figure out when that is,” he added. “And you don’t have to show the whole statue! Maybe to kindergartners we only show the head. You can appreciate that. You can show the hands, the arms, the muscles, the beautiful work Michelangelo did in marble, without showing the whole thing.”
This isn’t the first time Michelangelo’s David has sparked controversy. The Italian pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai featured a to-scale 3D-printed replica of the statue. However according to reports, most of the replica was concealed by stone barriers, for modesty’s sake.