Evangelical principal resigns after parent backlash to lesson featuring Michelangelo’s ‘David’

Wikimedia Commons/Rantemario
Wikimedia Commons/Rantemario

The principal of a Florida charter school says she was forced to resign after some parents complained about a sixth-grade lesson on Renaissance art that featured Michelangelo's "David" sculpture, which at least one parent says exposed students to pornographic material.

However, the school's board chair contends that the board had issues with the principal that have boiled up in the past year and that she was forced to step down because of failure to parental notification policies, not the lesson itself. 

Hope Carrasquilla of Tallahassee Classical School in Florida's Leon County resigned last week after complaints from parents, The Tallahassee Democrat reported.

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One of the parents claimed that the art lesson, which also included Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam" and Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" paintings, exposed students to pornographic material. The marble "David" statue sculpted in the early 1500s by the revered Italian artist shows the Old Testament figure David fully exposed without any clothes.

Other parents complained that they were not notified before such a lesson was given to their children.

"It saddens me that my time here had to end this way," Carrasquilla was quoted as saying.

The Democrat reports that a new rule enacted at the school required parents to be notified two weeks ahead of teaching curriculum considered "potentially controversial."

However, Carrasquilla said the school failed to do because of a communication breakdown. 

The Tallahassee Classical School has an association with Hillsdale College in Michigan, a conservative Christian liberal arts institution that has "member" and "curriculum" charter schools across the country. Tallahassee Classical School is identified as a Hillsdale "curriculum school," which means it uses a K-12 program guide developed by Hillsdale College under a licensing agreement.

"The K-12 Education Office considers Curriculum School requests on a regular basis, and is pleased to license the College's K-12 curriculum to schools who share the objective of leading students towards intellectual, moral, and civic virtue in a traditional education setting," the Hillsdale website explains. 

Tallahassee Classical School was previously listed as a Hillsdale "member school," but lost its affiliation status for not meeting improvement standards, The Democrat reported. However, the school regained its "curriculum school" status. Member schools "receive curriculum, consultation, and training from the Hillsdale K-12 Education Office."

Carrasquilla resigned after the school's Board Chair Barney Bishop gave her an ultimatum to resign or be fired. Bishop told CNN that other issues played a role in Carrasquilla's departure and that he had expressed to her several times that the school sought to go in a different direction with different leadership. 

"She was not let go because of Michelangelo's David lesson," he said.

"Our school is two and a half years old. Every year we show that picture in the Renaissance Art class taught to our sixth graders," he added, saying the issue was not following procedure to notify parents of the lesson.

"We aren't trying to ban the picture," he added. "We think it's beautiful, but we are going to make sure the concept of parental rights is supreme in Florida and at our charter school."

Carrasquilla also acknowledged in an interview with CNN that things have escalated over the past year.

"My board chair has not been happy with me," she said, admitting that she didn't follow every policy or procedure.

Bishop told The Huffington Post that online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic gave parents more insight into their children's education, including "woke indoctrination," prompting some to seek alternatives like Tallahassee Classical School. 

The board chair accused the former principal of trying to "gin up a lot of publicity."

Carrasquilla's husband, Victor, told The Washington Post that his wife is "a strong Evangelical Christian" who shouldn't have been forced to resign. 

The issue comes amid nationwide debates regarding the teaching of race, racism, gender identity and sexual orientation in schools.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a possible 2024 Republican presidential candidate, strongly opposes what critics call "woke" left-leaning ideologies in schools. He has enacted bills limiting instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in public schools, as well as restricting certain teachings about race.

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