Is there some sort of teacher lottery going on that I don’t know about? I feel like every day a single teacher is chosen to do some unnecessarily racist shit. Like the Hunger Games, but the only thing the teacher has to kill is their whole career. In New York, a group of parents are outraged after their children were given an assignment that said George Floyd died from a heart attack and not a knee on his neck.
I think we both are asking the same question right now: why?
According to NBC News, the assignment was given to students at Saugerties High School last Friday and asked them to craft a bold “thematic” statement in the same format as state exams by using the examples provided. One of the examples stated that Floyd didn’t die from Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck, but instead from a heart attack. Another example asked students if Chauvin should get another trial because “evidence” found juror Brandon Mitchell “could not have been forthcoming in his statements” due to potential having “racially provoked” attitudes towards policing and Black Lives Matter.
Once again, I must ask the question: why? Were there literally no better prompts to choose from? It feels like the teacher was scrolling through their Facebook, realized they still had to make an assignment, and went “well, this Newsmax video is actually making some points.”
Saugerties Central School District Superintendent Kirk Reinhardt issued a statement on Tuesday that said the district is currently reviewing the assignment and that at least one student found it contained “biased content.”
“In this instance, when the teacher realized that a student felt uncomfortable with the assignment, the student was immediately contacted in order to acknowledge and discuss the student’s concerns,” the statement said. “The student’s parents were contacted, and the family and the District discussed next steps. The assignment was also immediately revised.”
Barbara Gardner, the mother of the student who felt the assignment was biased, told NBC News that the teacher called to apologize for the assignment. Gardener, who’s not Black but is the mother of Black and mixed race daughters, said she felt the assignment came from a place of ignorance not racism.
“My feelings are that the teacher definitely needs training, and I feel that this school, definitely, maybe this is a wake-up call, but in so far as this being a racist town ... I do not understand how that’s growing out of the story, that Saugerties is a racist town, it’s not,” Gardner told the news outlet.
Sakinah Irizarry, the mother of fifth- and seventh-grade students in the district, told NBC News that she felt the assignment was racist and that it was disrespectful to treat a man’s death as “a thought experiment based on lies.”
“Even if we were not talking about this case, specifically, it takes the death of a person, I’d say, from a very cold and distant point of view,” Irizarry told the news outlet. “I keep coming back to empathy. It is not an empathetic point of view of a person who died, it is blaming a person who’s died for their own death. That chips away at empathy.”
Irizarry wants the district to implement changes that would tackle racism in curriculum and student behavior, and for teachers to receive cultural competency training.
“There are a lot of nice white people who want a certain type of progressive, open, broad, forward-thinking education for their children that are occasionally in the fight,” Irizarry said. “They are Facebook brave ... but are pretty consistently absent unless the Black woman is out there in front fighting. And it’s disappointing. And it’s exhausting.”