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Principal Resigns After Parental Concern Surrounding “David” Statue

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at USFSP chapter.

About two weeks ago, Hope Carrasquilla, a Florida middle school principal, resigned from her position at Tallahassee Classical. She resigned due to parental concern regarding a lesson that included the David statue by Michelangelo. The sculpture conveys David, a biblical hero, and is one of the most famous Renaissance art pieces. However, David is completely naked, which is the reason for concern. One parent deemed the statue pornographic, implying it was something too inappropriate for sixth graders to look at or learn about.  

The school had discussed pieces of art that contain nudity before, but they had informed the parents prior to the lesson. Tallahassee Classical follows a notification policy where they must inform parents that their children will be shown anything that may be considered controversial two weeks before they are taught. However, this year the letters were never sent, leaving the parents unnotified. According to Carrasquilla, the reason why parents were never notified was simply an issue of miscommunication. Due to the lack of notification given to the parents, the school’s governing board gave Carrasquilla the option to either step down or to be terminated. While the board’s reasoning for Carrasquilla’s consequences was due to the parents never being notified, the parental concerns were primarily addressing the content itself. Regardless of the works shown being considered some of the most famous pieces of art in history, at least one parent was upset about their child learning about them due to the nudity. One parent stated that they felt their child “should not be viewing those pieces,” and Carrasquilla described the parent as being “point-blank upset.”   

The piece of art that raised parental concern was created during the Renaissance period. It depicts nudity, which was common during that period of art. The sculpture of David created by Michelangelo, a famous Renaissance artist, depicts the biblical hero prior to his fight with Goliath. After it was finished, the Florentine people adopted the statue “as a symbol of their own struggle against the Medici,” which was once the ruling family of Florence. While the sculpture does convey nudity, Michelangelo never had the intention to convey sex or pornography. It is a beautiful work from a deeply important period in art history and should never be considered pornography.  

In response to the resignation of Hope Carrasquilla, many have voiced their disappointment and bewilderment. The museum that contains the statue of David, Galleria dell’Accademia, invited teachers and students from the school to visit and see the sculpture in person. The director of the museum, Cecilie Hollberg, said that the principal should be “rewarded, not punished.” The forced resignation of Carrasquilla shocked Renaissance experts, as well as Florentines. Hollberg explained how it would make no sense to discuss the Renaissance and not include David. She was shocked by the parental concerns and stated that “a distinction must be made between nudity and pornography” and that “there is nothing pornographic or aggressive about the David.” Additionally, Dario Nardella, the mayor of Florence, invited Carrasquilla to visit Italy after hearing about the situation. Nardella tweeted, “mistaking art for pornography is simply ridiculous” and “art is civilization and those who teach it deserve respect.” Tomaso Montanari, Florentine art historian and the dean of the University for Foreigners in Siena, stated that this attitude towards works of art is “disconcerting.” He described his concern about educational freedom and how “it should not be restricted or manipulated by families.” Montanari also deemed this as a “cultural backsliding” that “clearly highlights the presence of fundamentalist views within the West.”  

Back in Tallahassee, the local response to the pressured resignation of Carrasquilla involved many teachers and parents wanting to protest the situation. A crowd attended a school board meeting, where parents and teachers “criticized the board and even asked chairman Barney Bishop to step aside.” Although there are people who are advocating for Carrasquilla to get her job back, she is unsure if she would want to take it if it were offered. She stated that she would “really have to consider” if her return would be for the best, since the situation has caused so much “controversy and […] upheaval.” The Florida Department of Education commented on her resignation, stating “the statue of David has artistic and historical value. Florida encourages instruction on the art, and would not prohibit its use in instruction.” However, the Department has attempted to remain mostly uninvolved in the situation by claiming that it is “between the school and an employee, and is not the effect of state rule or law.”  

Tallahassee Classical previously had a partnership with Hillsdale College, a Christian liberal arts college located in southern Michigan. Due to the controversy surrounding Tallahassee Classical and the resignation of Hope Carrasquilla, Hillsdale has chosen to end its affiliation with the school. A spokesperson made said in a statement that “this drama around teaching Michelangelo’s ‘David’ sculpture, one of the most important works of art in existence, has become a distraction from […] the actual aims of classical education.” Tallahassee Classical was given license to use Hillsdale’s classical curriculum, but it will be expiring at the end of the year and will not be renewed.  

This situation is occurring while Florida governor Ron DeSantis makes attempts to control discussion about sex education, gender identity, and sexuality within public schools through legislation. The recent bill, HB 1069, was proposed to prohibit conversation of sex education, including menstruation and STDs, until students are in sixth grade. It is also part of a larger effort made by conservatives for “parents’ rights,” which focuses on giving parents more say in their children’s education and what they feel they should and should not learn about. In this case, the bill would allow anyone in the district, but mainly parents, to “object to any material in the classroom, school library or on a reading list that depicts or describes any sexual conduct.” Whether the content is pornographic, it does not matter, as long as it is not for a health course, anyone could protest it.  

I personally find this situation very upsetting. This only seems to be the beginning of parents attempting to control what their children learn about in school and what they should be censored from. The Renaissance is one of the most notable and important periods in history and the art that resulted from it is truly extraordinary. To deprive students from learning about some of the most famous and stunning works solely because they portray nudity is absurd. It is ridiculous that such a monumental piece of art was deemed “pornographic,” when that is far from what it truly is. The sculpture does not represent sex or pornography, it is one of the many “artistic depictions of the human form” from the Renaissance period. Why should the human body be censored? It is completely natural, and things should not simply be considered “pornographic” because they convey nudity. Hope Carrasquilla should not have been forced to resign due to a minor mistake of not notifying parents about the art lesson. The reasoning for the lesson was for students to learn about an important artistic movement and its works of art, not to show them pornography. The continued attempts at control throughout the education system in Florida are deeply concerning and they may only become more drastic in the future.  

gia is an editor and writer at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg chapter. she often writes articles about politics and books. she is studying english at the university of south florida. in the future, she plans to go to law school and then work in the book publishing industry. In her free time, she loves to read and write, and she can frequently be found browsing for new books at a bookstore or studying at the library. she will always have a book with her and will talk about books with anyone!