Florida - Schools - DeSantis Randi Weingarten said the DeSantis administration’s laws have heightened teachers’ fear of being sued.
Image via AP Photo/John Raoux, file.

Randi Weingarten criticized the atmosphere of fear among teachers and the attack on the freedom to read.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President, one of the nation’s largest teacher unions, harshly criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis’ influence on education in Florida.

Weingarten said that the governor had created an atmosphere of fear in the classroom, mainly among teachers.

“Kids want to learn and we should be rolling up our sleeves to help them, not demagoguing and fear mongering about the people who really want to do their jobs,” Weingarten said, in Tamarac, Florida, on Wednesday, during a press conference with teachers and union leaders.

DeSantis and the GOP-controlled Legislature have pushed bills like the Stop WOKE Act, which restricts school districts, colleges, and universities from discussing certain race-related concepts, and the Parental Rights in Education Law, better known as “Don’t Say Gay,” which regulates the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade classrooms.

The governor has said those laws are aimed at stopping the indoctrination happening in public schools. 

But Weingarten said those laws have heightened teachers’ fear of being sued, and the profession has been vilified by some politicians.

“I’m going to stand here and talk about just how amazing my members are … in spite of the names they get called all the time. Calling teachers pedophiles, calling teachers other names, saying they’re trying to change kids is disgusting,” Weingarten said.

The president’s visit to Broward County coincided with Banned Books Week, an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. 

As an example, she chose “The Story of Ruby Bridges,” one of her favorite banned books.

“This is what books do for us. That story of this little kid who wants to go to school is being banned in places! Why? Shouldn’t kids know about other kids? Shouldn’t kids know about the struggles of other kids? Isn’t that what teaching and learning are all about?” Weingarten said.