OUR POSITION: Sarasota School Board member Bridget Ziegler recently appeared on FOX News to blast teaching Critical Race Theory in schools and we’re not sure what her goal was.
Just when we thought the Sarasota County School Board had put the past behind it, Bridget Ziegler’s national television appearance brings back bad memories.
The School Board, as anyone who closely follows its actions should know, was a boiling cauldron stirred by political animus in recent years.
There were testy confrontations, accusations and all sorts of distractions from its members’ main job — which is to make sure the kids are getting a great education.
And, while no one can say the board has not performed its No. 1 priority well (the district consistently ranks among the best in the state academically), the tensions certainly were noticeable.
But things have been relatively quiet since the pandemic took hold. The only real controversy was not among board members really but mostly with parents who didn’t want their kids wearing masks.
Ziegler’s performance on FOX News, however, caused a ripple in those calm waters.
During the interview on “America Reports,” Ziegler said she did not want her children to be exposed to critical race theory.
One definition of CRT is a discipline and approach to teaching the role of racism in America’s history. Scholars used it as a way to show racial inequity persisted even after civil rights and anti-discrimination laws were passed.
Ziegler, on the show, called CRT anti-American. She pointed out she was the only member of the School Board with children who were in schools and that meant (in so many words) she had more skin in the game than her fellow board members. She went on to say parents should have input in “cultivating school policy and curriculum.”
A couple of board members and Superintendent Brennan Asplen bristled at the spotlight Ziegler put on the school district.
Vice Chair Jane Goodwin took Ziegler to task, saying she had received calls from parents about the FOX News spot and Ziegler’s comments, which they construed were aimed at Sarasota County schools.
Ziegler said she feels there are aspects of CRT “embedded” in the county schools’ curriculum and that she has spoken to Asplen about what she believes is a problem.
But Asplen also found the comments on national television troubling.
“It seemed there were a couple references to Sarasota County, and that part (of the television interview) disappointed me,” Asplen said. “I don’t want our community to be confused.”
The problem is, Sarasota County schools do not teach CRT and have never considered teaching it — nor is it “embedded” in the curriculum.
Ziegler’s TV appearance coincided with the state’s recent vote to ban CRT from the classroom.
We’re still not sure of the need for that vote considering no schools we know of in Florida teach CRT.
Sarasota County Schools Media Relations Specialist Kelsey Whealy said in a recent story by Olivia Cameron that, although private and charter schools across the county are governed separately, public schools do not teach CRT. Charlotte County school officials, in the same story, said they will follow the new law although they never have included CRT in the curriculum and had no plans to do so.
Ziegler, it seems, has higher goals than just being a member of the Sarasota County School Board. A chance to appear on national TV and discuss CRT was a golden opportunity to raise her profile that she obviously felt she couldn’t pass up.
We wish she would have not used the air time to make it appear CRT is a threat here. No matter if you support CRT’s message or not, the issue is dead. Schools in Southwest Florida are not teaching it.
It’s not an issue that needs discussion — especially on national TV.