The Dallas Independent School District apologized for a teacher’s writing assignment that asked high school students to write about a hero for the “modern age” and pick someone from a list that included Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old accused of killing two people during racial justice protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August.
Other people on the list were Mahatma Gandhi, Cesar Chavez, Malcolm X, George Floyd and Joseph Rosenbaum — one of Rittenhouse's alleged victims.
Rittenhouse was charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide for the shooting deaths of Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber during protests on Aug. 25, following the shooting of Jacob Blake by police.
Kristian Hernandez said her younger brother, a senior at W.T. White High School, shared a screengrab of the assignment with her family.
“My brother was really in disbelief that this was actually an assignment he was getting,” she stated.
The assignment asked students to write at least a half-page biography of six people. Then pick one that best demonstrates the student’s concept of a hero. In the original assignment, the names of Gandhi and Malcolm X were misspelled.
The school district said the assignment was not approved and taken down by administrators after it was posted to Google Classroom on Tuesday.
The latest news from around North Texas.
"The juxtaposition of George Floyd's name with Kyle's name was just astounding," Hernandez said. “The value of Black lives are not up for debate, and that’s what it felt like this was sort of getting at — by way of the names that were included."
Hernandez said she reached out to her brother’s principal with her concerns.
DISD said the teacher has been with the district for approximately three years. In a statement to NBC 5, DISD apologized and said the content was not part of approved lesson plans:
“An unapproved assignment posted in Google Classroom yesterday has been brought to our attention," the statement said. "Understandably, this caused some concern for the impacted students, and we apologize. Campus administration immediately removed the unapproved content and students are not required to complete that assignment. Due to personnel policies, we are not able to comment further, however, the appropriate steps are being followed pending investigation.
Racial equity is a top priority in Dallas ISD, and we remain committed to providing a robust teaching environment where all students can learn. It is important that we continue to be culturally sensitive to our diverse populations and provide a space of respect and value.”
“I don’t want to treat this as an isolated incident, but I want to examine structurally what is not happening to where this harm was already done,” said Hernandez.
Hernandez said classrooms should be a place where “brave” conversations can take place. She said this assignment did not measure up.
“I don’t think that this assignment is in any way doing that and I think is actually counterproductive to that type of conversation,” said Hernandez.
NBC 5 reached out to the teacher directly late Wednesday morning but has not received a reply.