‘Ruby Bridges’ Movie Banned in Florida School
On March 28 2023, popular posts on Reddit and Twitter referenced a controversy over a movie about Ruby Bridges at an elementary school in Florida.
Journalist Judd Legum published a Twitter thread about the film Ruby Bridges, and summarized the events as follows:
1. A elementary school in Florida has banned a 1998 Disney film about civil rights hero Ruby Bridges, pending a "review."
I've obtained documents revealing exactly how this happened.
Follow along if interested.
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) March 28, 2023
Legum’s thread contained fourteen tweets in total. The fifth and sixth tweets addressed purported objections raised by one single Aparent:
5. One of the parents who opted her child out of the movie was Emily Conklin.
But for Conklin, [opting out for her own child] wasn’t enough.
On March 6 , Conklin filed an official objection seeking to ban the Ruby Bridges film for all second graders — and even much older students.
6. On the form, which was obtained by [Legum’s popular.info] Conklin says the “theme or purpose” of the Ruby Bridges movie is “racism.”
Conklin claims the result of a child watching the film would be to “teach them racial slur [sic]” and that “white people hate black people.”
One commonly discussed point involved Ruby Bridges’ age during the events of the film. Screenwriter Toni Ann Johnson tweeted:
Ruby Bridges, a film I wrote that was released twenty-five years ago, is banned in a Florida school because a full-of-shit parent thinks "the movie might teach white children to hate Black children."
It teaches white children to empathize with Ruby.https://t.co/DaeVQBx5RZ
— Toni Ann Johnson (@toniannjohnson) March 27, 2023
Ruby Bridges was categorized in a Britannica.com entry as a “civil rights activist,” who “became a symbol of the civil rights movement … at age six, the youngest of a group of African American students to integrate schools in the American South.” It described Bridges’ first year in a newly integrated school, to which she was escorted by federal marshals:
Bridges was the eldest of eight children, born into poverty in the state of Mississippi [in September 1954]. When she was four years old, her family moved to New Orleans. Two years later a test was given to the city’s African American schoolchildren to determine which students could enter all-white schools …
Of the six African American students designated to integrate the school, Bridges was the only one to enroll. On November 14, 1960, her first day, she was escorted to school by four federal marshals. Bridges spent the entire day in the principal’s office as irate parents marched into the school to remove their children. On Bridges’s second day, Barbara Henry, a young teacher from Boston, began to teach her. The two worked together in an otherwise vacant classroom for an entire year. Every day as the marshals escorted Bridges to school, they urged her to keep her eyes forward so that—though she could hear the insults and threats of the angry crowd— she would not have to see the racist remarks scrawled across signs or the livid faces of the protesters.
On Reddit, the post linked above led to a March 27 2023 article by the Tampa Bay Times (archived), “Removal of ‘Ruby Bridges’ film from Pinellas school sparks outrage.” It briefly summarized the controversy, which it attributed to parents having new avenues to object to and disrupt long-established lesson plans:
The Disney movie “Ruby Bridges,” which tells the tale of a 6-year-old who integrated New Orleans schools in the 1960s, has been a staple of Pinellas County Black History Month lessons for years.
It never caused a stir until , as parents across Florida exert increased powers to question what children can see and read in schools.
A North Shore Elementary parent who would not allow her child to watch the film in early March  later complained that it wasn’t appropriate for second graders. In a formal challenge dated March 6 , Emily Conklin wrote that the use of racial slurs and scenes of white people threatening Ruby as she entered a school might result in students learning that white people hate Black people.
Pinellas school officials responded by removing the movie from use by all students at the St. Petersburg school until a review committee can assess it — a step that is drawing strong opposition[.]
The story further noted that Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye was removed in 2022 after one single parent complained about it. The Tampa Bay Times initially said that the film was “removed” for “review,” but “ban[s]” and “banning” were mentioned later in the piece:
The state’s guidelines, which some have called vague, have led to book challenges and bans by the dozens throughout Florida.
Former St. Petersburg police chief and deputy mayor Goliath Davis first raised the issue of the film’s removal in a March 19  column in the Weekly Challenger. He too criticized the district’s action, calling it a ban, and contended that the policy allowing for such decisions needs more clarity.
He noted that a single complaint can lead to a book or movie being removed pending review, yet the policy sets forth no time frame for considering the challenge and rendering a decision. In the case of “The Bluest Eye,” he said, that has meant censoring the novel for months.
Predictably, some discussion about the controversy over Ruby Bridges in Florida framed it as “semantic” in origin. A discussion post to Reddit’s r/AskConservative prefaced the topic with a disclaimer that “calling it a ‘ban’ is a semantics argument”:
Let’s agree that calling it a “ban” is a semantics argument. Now, setting that aside, do you think it is appropriate that books and films like the Ruby Bridges film and ‘And Tango Makes Three’ are under review in Florida schools? Do you think they should be under review? Why or why not?
by u/Tappyy in AskConservatives
Legum obtained a copy of Conklin’s complaint form, which contained several uncensored racial slurs. Conklin did not request that the film be “reviewed,” but rather removed from an “approved list of films”:
6. On the form, which was obtained by https://t.co/Gl6evXSb2x, Conklin says the "theme or purpose" of the Ruby Bridges movie is "racism."
Conklin claims the result of a child watching the film would be to "teach them racial slur [sic]" and that "white people hate black people." pic.twitter.com/jUDWbYbQ0O
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) March 28, 2023
On March 8 2023, the office of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) issued a statement, “Governor Ron DeSantis Debunks Book Ban Hoax.” It contained a section labeled “Myth/Fact,” and it was prefaced as follows:
***EXPLICIT CONTENT NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN***
[On March 8 2023], Governor Ron DeSantis further set the record straight, debunking the mainstream media, unions and leftist activists’ hoax of empty library bookshelves and political theater pretending that Florida’s schools cannot teach about topics like African American History, including topics like slavery. Governor DeSantis touted Florida’s high quality standards for required instruction of African American History, extensive African American History educational requirements in state law that Governor DeSantis has successfully helped expand in recent years. Governor DeSantis also displayed examples of books that have been found in libraries and classrooms in 23 school districts across the state that contained pornographic content and other types of violent and age-inappropriate content. For more information, click here.
“Exposing the ‘book ban’ hoax is important because it reveals that some are attempting to use our schools for indoctrination,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “In Florida, pornographic and inappropriate materials that have been snuck into our classrooms and libraries to sexualize our students violate our state education standards. Florida is the education state and that means providing students with a quality education free from sexualization and harmful materials that are not age appropriate.”
“Education is about the pursuit of truth, not woke indoctrination,” said Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. “Under Governor DeSantis, Florida is committed to rigorous academic content and high standards so that students learn how to think and receive the tools necessary to go forth and make great decisions.”
After denying Florida schools “cannot teach about topics like African American History, including topics like slavery,” one of the four “Myth/Fact” sections stated:
Myth: Florida has banned the instruction of African American History, including the discussion of slavery and the aftermath of slavery.
Fact: Under Governor DeSantis, instruction on African American History has only expanded. The Governor has signed legislation that ensures that Florida’s students learn about the 1920 Ocoee Election Day Riots in addition to requiring instruction on slavery, the Civil War, and Jim Crow laws.
Additionally, the following is required instruction on the history of African Americans in Florida statute:
- The history of African peoples before the political conflicts that led to the development of slavery
- The passage to America
- The enslavement experience
- The history and contributions of Americans of the African diaspora to society
HB 7, signed in 2022, further expanded instruction of African American History to develop students’ understanding of the ramifications of prejudice and racism.
DeSantis again referenced HB 7 at the end of the statement. In that context, DeSantis centered what he called “push[ing] collective guilt,” about enslavement and the Holocaust:
HB 7 also expanded instruction of African American History to develop students’ understanding of the ramifications of prejudice and racism. Classroom instruction must educate students on what it means to be a respectful and responsible citizen and encourage tolerance of diversity to protect democratic principles that our country is founded on. Schools are required to teach factual information on topics including African American History and the Holocaust instead of subjective indoctrination that pushes collective guilt.
It wasn’t clear if Emily Conklin’s objections fell under the state’s definition of “subjective indoctrination that pushes collective guilt.” We were unable to locate any mention of Ruby Bridges on any website or social media account for Pinellas County Schools or North Shore Elementary, to determine when or whether the film (or The Bluest Eye) would be “reviewed.”
According to the Tampa Bay Times, both works were “removed” indefinitely:
The district has not yet scheduled times to review either “Ruby Bridges” or “The Bluest Eye.”
On March 27 2023, news that an elementary school in Pinellas County, Florida “banned” the Disney film Ruby Bridges spread virally, and ongoing debate over what constituted a ban preceded and predictably followed it. It was not in dispute that one parent, Emily Conklin, filed an official complaint form, after which time Ruby Bridges was removed from the school’s curriculum. Neither the district nor the school publicly addressed its decision to withdraw Ruby Bridges, and the district did not disclose any sort of timeline or criteria for a “review” of the film to be conducted.