A Texas public school district is feeling the heat after some students were given an assignment that included a political cartoon likening police officers to slave owners and Ku Klux Klan members, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
What are the details?
Officials with the Wylie Independent School District, which is north of Dallas, told the paper the assignment was unauthorized.
The five-panel cartoon that came with it first shows a slave ship officer with his knee on a black man’s neck — and then similar images moving forward in time, including a KKK member with his knee on a black man’s neck and what appears to be a sheriff’s deputy with his knee on a black man’s neck in front of a “white only” sign, ending with a cop with his knee on a black man’s neck. Throughout the black man says, “I can’t breathe.”
The cartoon presumably is a reaction to George Floyd’s death while in custody of Minneapolis police in May, which led to nationwide protests and rioting.
The assignment was given in a Cooper Junior High social studies class, where students were learning about the Bill of Rights, and the political cartoon was supposed to teach them about political satire, Wylie ISD spokesperson Ian Halperin told the Star-Telegram, adding that the cartoon chosen by the unnamed teacher wasn’t part of the district’s curriculum.
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday tweeted that the teacher should be fired:
‘Abhorrent and disturbing’
The assignment was taken down after social media backlash and parental concern, the paper said.
“In hindsight, we say that they could have picked a more balanced approach,” Halperin told the Star-Telegram. “Editorial cartoons have a place in education, but try to present a more balanced approach as an educator.”
Halperin added to the paper that the district has taken no disciplinary action as the situation is still under review, but officials have met with staff to provide them with better ways to present material under the district’s guidelines.
Joe Gamaldi, vice president of the National Fraternal Order of Police, sent a letter to Wylie ISD superintendent David Vinson saying the assignment was “abhorrent and disturbing,” the Star-Telegram reported.
In the letter, Gamaldi said law enforcement tries to create better relationships with children and teenagers every day, but their work becomes difficult when teachers present divisive material to students, the paper said.
The NFOP then tweeted that the district issued an apology and would issue one to parents as well, the Star-Telegram added.
“We are willing to sit down with anyone and have a fact-based conversation about our profession, but divisiveness like your teachers showed does nothing to move that conversation forward,” Gamaldi wrote, according to the paper.
‘Don’t indoctrinate our children to think this way’
Wylie resident Amber Jennings told the Star-Telegram that teachers shouldn’t be handing out such material, especially when the recipients are 13- and 14-year-old students.
“Don’t indoctrinate our children to think this way,” Jennings added to the paper.
Jennings — who has two kids in the district but not at Cooper — added to the Star-Telegram that she’s taught her children to respect their elders, including police officers, and whatever opinions they develop about police should happen without others forcing it on them.
Wylie Police Chief Anthony Henderson said in a statement that his department works to foster a positive relationship in the community, and this assignment undermines and hurts the relationship it’s worked to build with students, the paper said.
“The last thing we want is for our young people to be scared to talk to us or confide in us,” Henderson added to the Star-Telegram.
Governor calls for Wylie ISD teacher to be fired over use of political cartoon in online study lesso