“The commissioner made clear that he was getting some pushback,” said Jones. “It was truly going to be a discussion.”
Hundreds of people have reportedly RSVP’d to attend the event.
Jones told Local 10 News that the discussion was supposed to be a respectful listening session — all about education at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, a Black church in Miami Gardens, the state’s largest African American city.
As education commissioner, Diaz has had to defend all the controversial laws and policies pushed by DeSantis, who is running for president in 2024.
Diaz had agreed to show up despite recent backlash to discuss new curriculum guidelines over how slavery is taught in classrooms — specifically, a lesson dealing with the kinds of labor enslaved people were forced into, a benchmark that says “slaves developed skills from which they could personally benefit.”
The list of laws and policies that DeSantis wants to be banned includes what critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” law, book bans, the war over the content in AP Psychology, and African American studies.
“They want this story to die,” said Jones.
Jones believes politics is the driving force in the attempt to ban them.
“If we as leaders are bold enough to put these policies on the table, we should be bold enough to defend them,” he added.
Jones recalled that DeSantis hosted a similar forum in 2019 with former Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, who showed up and took questions from the public.
“What do you think has changed since then?” asked Local 10 News reporter Hatzel Vela.
“Governor DeSantis is running for president,” Jones responded.
“There was nothing sudden about my inability to attend Senator Jones’s Townhall. As I told the senator last week, I will be visiting schools throughout the state to welcome back students, parents and teachers for the first day of school.”
Jones told Local 10 News that Diaz previously confirmed that he was attending the meeting.
“I was really hoping that the commissioner would be present,” said Florida Senator Rosalind Osgood.
Osgood confirmed that she was going to be one of the hosts along with Miami-Dade School board member Steve Gallon.
“We have to utilize this as an opportunity to learn lessons about how we can engage in anticipatory activism,” said Gallon.