Statement on Florida as the Theatre Education Conference LocationPublished Feb 2022
Throughout the country, legislators are enacting measures that threaten teachers’ ability to teach and students’ ability to learn. EdTA opposes the weaponization of the education system for political agendas, as well as discriminatory legislation that harms people by denying their identity or restricting their rights to equity, inclusion, and ultimately, belonging. (See our Freedom of Expression statement.)
As such, the EdTA board and staff recognize the harmful impact of recent laws and actions in Florida. Measures such as the Parental Rights in Education Act (“Don’t Say Gay”), the Individual Freedom Act (“Stop Woke”), book bans, and the governor rejecting a new AP African-American studies course as “woke” curriculum — all have a chilling effect on teachers and students.
Why, then, is EdTA hosting the 2023 Theatre Education Conference in St. Pete Beach, Florida? Isn’t this contrary to what EdTA stands for as the professional association for theatre teachers?
The decision where to hold EdTA events involves many factors, and venues are booked years in advance of the actual event. In the case of St. Pete Beach, the resort was contracted for the 2020 conference back in 2017, following a highly rated EdTA Conference at the same location in 2015.
Due to the pandemic, the Florida event did not happen in 2020 as originally planned. By this time, EdTA had begun to have concerns about the climate in Florida — but this did not absolve EdTA of its contractual obligations. Because political reasons are not grounds to nullify a contract, walking away would have required paying out the full value of the contract. That would mean redirecting hundreds of thousands of member dollars from programs and financially damaging the organization. After much negotiation and legal consultation, the best solution we could do was to defer the event to 2023.
By hosting the Theatre Education Conference in Florida, EdTA is not ignoring the troubling environment there. In fact, it is EdTA’s goal to use our event as an opportunity to support the rights, safety, and well-being of all theatre teachers and students in the state — along with the rest of our membership.
That’s why we’ve chosen The Power of YOU as our conference theme. Through our programming and conference activities, this event will encourage EdTA members to be agents of change in the face of the frightening situations in Florida and elsewhere.
We are centering the experience, safety, and well-being of our LBGTQ+ and BIPOC communities in our planning. Boycotting an event location can ultimately hurt the very people we wish to help, including BIPOC and LBGTQ+ hospitality workers and the local theatre education community. While we cannot control the government’s actions in Florida, EdTA can – and will – make this event a brave space in an unsafe place.
We hope you will join us in Florida to support all teachers and students, and use The Power of YOU to fight for inclusion and social justice in our classrooms – and beyond.
Dr. Jennifer Katona
EdTA Board President
Krista Carson Elhai
EdTA Vice President
On behalf of the entire EdTA board and staff