State Watch

Florida English professor fired after parent complaint over racial justice lessons

An English professor in Florida was fired this week over what he said was his decision to teach racial justice lessons in his class. 

Samuel Joeckel, a professor of English at Palm Beach Atlantic University, said in an Instagram post on Thursday that his contract was not renewed for him to teach during the next academic year after his university was “influenced” by the “toxic political ideology” of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). 

“They did this for a clear reason: my decision to teach and speak about racial justice,” Joeckel said. “The timing of this is not a coincidence as we are dealing with an ‘anti-woke’ crusade from Governor DeSantis and other far-right politicians and activists.” 

Joeckel said he first became aware of the potential for his contract to not be renewed last month, when the dean and provost waited for him outside his classroom to tell him that it would not be renewed until the university reviewed his syllabus and PowerPoint presentations on racial justice to ensure that he is not “indoctrinating” students. 

Joeckel noted that he has been teaching a racial justice unit in a course at the university for more than a decade, and The Palm Beach Post reported that he said he had not heard any concerns from administrators about it before. 

The Post reported that the inquiry began after a parent complained about the lessons. Students in the class discuss racial justice, read and analyze passages about the topic and write essays about it, but Joeckel said he does not insert his personal views, nor does he require his students to have a certain opinion, according to the outlet. 

The university is a private, Christian school with a student population of about 3,700. 

Joeckel’s dismissal comes as DeSantis has widely pushed back against racial justice teaching in schools in Florida. 

DeSantis signed the Stop WOKE Act into law last year, placing restrictions on certain conversations about race in schools and businesses and banning the teaching of critical race theory and educational material that could make members of a certain race feel guilty for past actions that members of their race committed. A federal judge in November blocked part of the law that prevented public college employees from discussing eight concepts related to race during teaching. 

DeSantis also decided in January to reject an Advanced Placement African American studies class from being taught in Florida schools in January. 

Joeckel said the university’s actions go against Christian beliefs that he has and the school claims to have. He said he is taking legal action against the university to show it and other institutions that “they cannot get away with this.” 

The university declined to comment to the Post, but the outlet reported that the provost said in an internal memo last month that she was trying to “better understand the pedagogical rationale for including these extensive lectures” in the class. 

The Post reported that a petition has gathered more than 300 signatures from current and former students supporting Joeckel and opposing his firing.

Tags Florida racial justice Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis

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