Wylie Independent School District is removing a controversial assignment handed out to middle school students after being confronted by angry parents and police unions.
“We’re going to learn from this and move forward,” said Ian Halperin, spokesperson for Wylie I.S.D.
This week, about 400 eighth graders received an assignment by social studies teachers while discussing the Bill of Rights.
They were instructed to recreate political cartoons depicting current events, including the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
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One cartoon by David Fitzsimmons goes on to replace the officer and Floyd with other Black men, dying at the hands of people including a slave trader, a member of the KKK and another law enforcement officer.
“The material that was used in this particular incident was not material that was approved as part of our curriculum,” said Halperin. “It’s not something that the district has vetted. It was not from a site that was approved, education site, so it was not something that should’ve been in the hands of students.”
Halperin tells NBC 5 the assignment was only handed out to Cooper students by their social studies teachers.
“For some people, this is important for kids to learn that learning what an editorial cartoon is and learning that there are difference of opinions is part of social studies,” he said.
Angry parents alerted the district and police unions.
Eric Willadsen is the president of Richardson’s chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.
His child attends Wylie I.S.D., as do about 20 other officers’ kids.
“We’re disgusted with what happened in Minneapolis, but it seems as if this is portraying continuing this false negative,” he said. “Whenever a person, say a teacher, has influence over you and is directing you toward one thought pattern, that’s where we have the issue.”
The National Fraternal Order of Police sent a scathing letter to Wylie leaders saying in part:
‘I cannot begin to tell you how abhorrent and disturbing this comparison is, but what is more disturbing is that no adult within your school thought better before sending this assignment to children.’
The letter goes on to talk about the impact the assignment could have on law enforcement’s efforts to build a relationship with the community stating: ‘..interaction with our youth becomes increasingly difficult when adults who were hired to educate them, engage in outright divisiveness towards us.’
The district told NBC 5 on Thursday morning that it would allow students who do not want to complete the assignment to receive an alternative assignment.
The district later told NBC 5 it removed the assignment all together.
Willadsen says the damage is done.
“Absolutely,” he said. “You can’t unsee something once it’s been there, once it’s been presented.”
“We’re going to work hard to repair that,” said Halperin. “That’s all we can do. We’re going to learn from this and we’re going to keep moving forward.”
The district is sending out letters to parents.
Halperin said the district also in touch with the police unions saying, “We are trying to work with them because we truly do value our police partners.”
Parents contacted NBC 5 on Thursday evening saying the assignment has not yet been removed.
The district says it has apologized to parents, is sending out a letter alerting parents that the assignment is being removed and stresses no grade will be taken.
But because many students are learning virtually, the assignment might still be in your child’s Google assignment folder. The district is working on taking it down.