The Minneapolis school board paid for a series of books that it hoped would be part of a new reading curriculum for kids. But many teachers were shocked to find books rife with stereotypes, including a drawing of a black girl called "Lazy Lucy" and Kenyans being described as being able to "run very fast."
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the school district paid some $1.2 million to Reading Horizons for reading material that would aid in children's literacy, but now many in the community are asking for a refund.
"Reading Horizons needs to step up to the table," board member Carla Bates said during a school board meeting Tuesday, the Star Tribune reports.
"I want them to bring me a check, bring you a check, bring the taxpayers of Minneapolis a check," said Bates, adding that she wanted to be sure that the company would not benefit from the money it received for the books.
Reading Horizons told board members in a statement that the company "takes full responsibility" for the books, which also alluded to the historical myth that Christopher Columbus discovered America and an illustration of an American Indian girl titled, "Nieko the Hunting Girl."
Although the company has been around for more than 30 years, the books are relatively new, Laura Axtell, Reading Horizons' curriculum-implementation coordinator, told the Star Tribune Wednesday. The books were published in 2012 and sold to various school districts across the country without similar complaints, she said.
"We have not received feedback like this in the past. Nobody has complained," Axtell said. "That doesn't matter to us, because as soon as we became aware of the concerns in Minneapolis, we took action."
The Star Tribune notes that Axtell wouldn't say whether the company would return any of the school district's money.
Residents demanded that the school board terminate the contract with the company, a firm they feel is insensitive to a diverse community. However, interim Superintendent Michael Goar told the newspaper that the company might not need to take all the blame.
"I don't want to be here to admit we made a stupid mistake," Goar said. "We didn't vet the material. We rushed the contract … where we can hold people accountable, we will."
Read more at the Minneapolis Star Tribune.