The fallout from a recent Tallahassee Democrat story, which implied a principal at a local charter school was forced to resign due to an art lesson that included Michelangelo’s nude sculpture of “David”, made it all the way to Italy before the truth was discovered.
The implication of the story – which was that parents at a conservative charter school are not sophisticated enough to appreciate renaissance art – played well among the national and world-wide media as celebrities denigrated Tallahassee and Florida for a lack of culture.
Even the Mayor of Florence, Italy commented on the issue. More on him later.
However, four days after the story was published, facts revealed that the headline and the story were misleading and incomplete.
The latest information indicate that the principal was forced to resign because she was not good at her job, not because of nude art.
Through research -which takes time – TR found that about four months ago the Tallahassee Classical Board passed a resolution requiring the principal to check the grammar of all communications that were sent out by her office. Not exactly a vote of confidence.
Then at the Board meeting on Tuesday after her forced resignation, several teachers publicly blamed the principal for the turnover of teachers at the school. In addition, one former teacher questioned the principal’s interaction with ESE students.
Based on media reports, only one former teacher defended the principal at the Board meeting.
The final straw for the principal seems have to come when she failed to send out a parental notification letter related to the sixth grade art lesson, a notification letter that was sent out last year without incident.
Critics have asked why does a classical school need permission from parents to show nude art to sixth graders?
For the answer to that question, we need to return to Italy.
The Mayor of Florence, after made aware of the false narrative related to the story, was quoted as saying, “A Florida teacher was forced to quit for showing students photos of Michelangelo’s David. Mistaking art for pornography is just ridiculous.”
However, what the Mayor of Florence did not talk about was the time that the government of Italy covered nude statues when dignitaries from Muslim countries visited Italy.
In fact, during a November 2015 visit to Florence by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Italy’s premier Matteo Renzi made sure a nude statue was covered. According to reports, this was done to acknowledge and respect Muslim beliefs.
How is this relevant to the Tallahassee Classical school?
The Tallahassee Classical charter school accepts students through a lottery. This results in a diverse student body with diverse religious and political beliefs and does include Muslim students.
So notification letters sent by the school are an effort to respect the beliefs of a diverse set of parents.
The story by the Tallahassee Democrat went beyond the nuts and bolts of reporting about a principal that was forced to resign and instead produced a report with a sensational hook without all the facts.
The approach was successful from Gannett’s perspective, but ignored one of the major ethical tenets of journalism: “Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.”
Unfortunately, the Tallahassee Democrat – not unlike other news outlets – chose clicks and sensationalism over ethical journalism and it has hurt Tallahassee.