Italian mayor invites ousted US principal to Florence following Michelangelo ‘David’ statue controversy
(CNN) — The mayor of Florence has invited Hope Carrasquilla, the former principal of a Florida school embroiled in controversy over a sixth-grade lesson on Michelangelo’s “David,” to visit Italy after she was forced out of her job last week.
Writing to Twitter on Sunday, politician Dario Nardella said he would “personally invite” the American educator to Florence, where the statue is located, to “give her recognition on behalf of the city,” adding that “art is civilization and whoever teaches it deserves respect.”
The move comes after Carrasquilla resigned from her position at Tallahassee Classical School following complaints over a lesson that featured Michelangelo’s famous nude sculpture of the biblical figure David.
Although the former principal told a local media outlet that one parent had complained the lesson was “pornographic,” the school insists she was reprimanded for failing to follow procedure — alongside other unspecified disagreements — and not because the 500-year-old statue itself was considered indecent.
In a recent interview, chair of the school’s board Barney Bishop III told CNN that Carrasquilla was given a choice between resigning or being terminated from her position because she had neglected to inform parents about the lesson’s content beforehand. “She was not let go because of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ lesson,” Bishop said, adding that the picture has been shown in previous years’ art classes.
“We aren’t trying to ban the picture,” he said. “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.”
Despite the school’s protestations, its decision has prompted outcry from observers who believe Carrasquilla’s removal was an act of censorship. In a tweet preceding his invitation to Florence, which is also Michelangelo’s birthplace, Mayor Nardella stated that “mistaking art for pornography is just ridiculous.”
The controversy comes in the wake of last year’s Parental Rights in Education Act, backed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, which introduced stricter controls on what can be taught in public schools. Described by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” act, due to its restrictions on how teachers address sexuality and gender, the legislation also gives parents at Florida’s public schools the right “to receive effective communication from the school principal as to the manner in which instructional materials are used to implement the school’s curricular objectives.”
Bishop said that Tallahassee Classical School’s board agreed with DeSantis’ approach, claiming that it “does not mean that parents are telling us what we are going to teach their children.”
“We are going to make sure that parents specifically know what we are going to show their kids, what we are going to talk to their kids about and any keywords that might be a triggering event,” he added. “This gives parents the opportunity to say, ‘Wait a minute. My child isn’t old enough to hear that,’” he added.
Both Bishop and the school’s former principal said that parents had not been given prior notice about its Renaissance art lesson. Carrasquilla informed the same local media outlet that two parents complained about not being notified in advance, though she later told CNN that disputes between her and the school went beyond — and predated — last week’s controversy.