A Florida middle school teacher faced backlash after a viral TikTok video showed white students being servants to Black students and him removing books banned from the reading list under Florida’s CRT rules.
Ethan Hooper, a sixth-grade teacher at an Ocala, Florida, school, posted the videos to his personal TikTok. They went viral after the far-right Twitter account, the Libs of TikTok, shared them in a series of tweets spurring criticism from conservatives.
Libs of TikTok accused the Hooper of creating the videos to mock the Florida Department of Education and its policy, which Gov. Ron DeSantis backed. However, the Howard Middle School teacher said the videos were not made with a political motive.
“It was in good fun. There was no political agenda behind it. It’s [the TikTok video] being maliciously used, and I am deeply apologetic toward the students and parents of those involved. I am also sorry to the students who weren’t involved,” Hooper said to WESH 2 News. “I want to be an example for them. If this does not match up with what they viewed [of me], I am truly sorry. My heart is for my students and the parents, first and foremost.”
One video started with him saying, “I am about to run on these kids,” He then proceeded to take books out of the students’ hands on the banned reading list.
Another video was titled “Black History Month… The Shortest Month of the Year.” White students were pictured in the video as servants to Black students.
Hooper received backlash and was accused of using the students as “political pawns” after the far-right group shared the photos.
“I am appalled at the behavior and judgment of the teacher who posted the inappropriate videos using his students as political props,” Superintendent Maria Vazquez said in a statement. “This is not free speech — it is the exploitation of our students for political purposes, and it will not be tolerated in our school district.”
“This is domestic terrorism,” said local writer Adrian Reigne.
“If any of these were my child, I know deep down I would react in a non socially acceptable way. I know I shouldn’t, but I don’t think I could help myself. Fire with fire,” commented another Twitter user.
The Orange County Public School District also released a statement to the media on Feb. 17 regarding Hooper’s content.
“Orange County Public Schools will not tolerate the use of our children as political pawns by anyone, including a classroom teacher. Any employee who creates videos or other content with students in an effort to exploit them for political purposes will be immediately removed from the classroom, placed on administrative leave, and swift action will be taken to terminate employment.”
Jania Jackson is a student in Hooper’s class, and she told local media that they all agreed to do the videos.
“We all agreed to it,” said Jackson, who appeared in one of the videos. “He didn’t really do anything wrong.”
Jackson’s mother, Shauna Thompson, also defended her daughter’s teacher.
“The fact that the students really devised the content specifically means that it’s something that matters to them. And to say that they were used as pawns is false,” said Thompson.
She continued, “The other example my daughter showed me was for Black History Month. They put some Black students on the chairs, and then the white students were fanning them and making them comfortable. You know, it’s awesome, it’s beautiful, it’s celebratory, and I loved it.”
Thompson also mentioned that Hooper is their favorite teacher, and if he is fired, the students would feel “guilt.”
Another parent, who wanted to remain anonymous, also sent a statement supporting Hooper.
“He did nothing wrong. It’s so sad. My daughter said they were simply doing skits. I saw one of the videos, and it’s nothing bad at all. She was in tears and said that’s one of her favorite teachers that takes time and allows all students, no matter race or gender, to be themselves,” said the anonymous parent.
Besides being placed on leave, no further action has been taken against Hooper.