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“Ruby Bridges” movie under review by Florida school district after parent complaint

A film about a Black first grader who integrated an all-White elementary school in the South is under review in a Florida school district after a parent objected to the movie’s use of slurs and argued it could teach students that “White people hate Black people,”

A parent of a second grade student at North Shore Elementary in St. Petersburg filed a formal complaint March 6 requesting the removal of the 1998 movie “Ruby Bridges” from the school’s list of approved films.

The parent objected in part to racial slurs used in the film, depictions of a child placing a noose around a doll’s neck and characters threatening a hanging.

This came after the movie was shown to about 60 second-graders on March 2 as part of a Black History Month lesson, Isabel Mascareñas, a spokesperson for Pinellas County Schools

After the parent requested that the school district remove the movie from the school’s list of approved films, Pinellas County Schools officials temporarily banned “Ruby Bridges” from the elementary school until it’s assessed by a committee. A link to the trailer was provided in the permission slips for all parents to review, Pinellas County Schools public information officer Isabel Mascareñastold outlet.

“After receiving the complaint,the school will now engage in the formal objection process to review the challenged material,”

Mascareñas said, citing the district’s policies on contested instructional materials

“it was communicated with the parent that the school would not have any future showings during this school year as the movie had already been shown.” She also said the movie, which is not rated, remains available through the district’s licensed movie library.

The movie has not been removed from all district schools and still remains in the district’s movie library, she said.

The 1998 Disney film portrays Bridges experiencing racist encounters while seeking an education. Directed by EuzhanPalcy and written by Toni Ann Johnson, “Ruby Bridges” earned several accolades, including a Christopher Award and a Gold Apple from the National Educational Media Network.

The film was also a 1999 NAACP Image Award nominee for outstanding television movie or mini-series.

While “Ruby Bridges” is not permanently banned in the school district, the move has prompted some Black-led organizations, such as the Concerned Organization for Quality Education for Black Students, to implement a call of action to protect the teaching of Black history in schools.

The organization’s efforts aim to ensure Pinellas County Schools provides quality education to Black students.

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Written by Jamil Johnson