‘Ruby Bridges’ film plunges Florida even deeper into controversy


Austin Lloyd, Staff Writer

The state of Florida and its educational system have been controversial subjects for months now, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has received a heaping portion of the blame for it. However, the divisive nature of such discussions reaches far beyond the law.

The most recent piece of media to be scrutinized is the 1998 film “Ruby Bridges,” which follows the true story of Ruby Bridges, a 6-year-old girl who attended the previously all-white William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in 1960. The event is regarded as one of the most recognizable from the civil rights movement.

The film, after being shown to second-graders at St. Petersburg’s North Shore Elementary School, was pulled for review, but not due to any state-ordered search. Rather, it was due to the complaint of a single parent.

The unnamed parent spoke out against the showing of the film for multiple reasons, including fears that it could teach kids slurs, differences, and even hate. In a statement to CNN, Pinellas County spokesperson Isabel Mascareñas confirmed that the school has begun investigating his/her concerns, along with assuring that the film will not be shown again this school year, as it was originally shown as a lesson related to Black History Month.

“The school will now engage in the formal objection process to review the challenged material,” Mascareñas said. “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.”

The questionability surrounding the film’s appropriateness for second-graders will likely boil down to two debates: Whether it actually promotes hatred and whether the children are old enough to watch it. The film’s screenwriter, Toni Ann Johnson, feels that the latter should be met with a resounding yes.

“The reason I think that second grade is not too young is that by that age, children are recognizing racial differences,” Johnson said. ”Ruby was 6 years old when she desegregated William Frantz.”

One could argue that a happy medium for this matter would be to send out permission slips to the parents beforehand, as it would give them the power to decide what their child does and does not view. However, that is a liberty that they had already been given. In response to this fact, Johnson acknowledged that she feels it is fair for parents to decide what’s best for their kids, but not anyone else’s.

“Parents who don’t want their children to learn this story in public schools should have the right to opt out,” Johnson said. “But they should not have the right to prevent teachers from teaching the Ruby Bridges story to other children receiving a public-school education.”

Despite the severity of the situation, “Ruby Bridges” has not been removed from all Pinellas County schools and remains in the district’s movie library.