Society

Michigan Teen Withdraws From School Over Samurai Suicide Assignment

| by Karin Sun
samurai assignmentsamurai assignment

A Michigan high school student has reportedly decided to withdraw from her school due to a graphic assignment on samurai suicide methods.

Ellie Grassel, a sophomore at South Lyon East High School in South Lyon, Michigan, said she and her classmates received a packet on ancient Japanese samurai traditions in her world history class on Oct. 9, WXYZ Detroit reports.

The assignment was reportedly entitled "Death before Dishonor" and contained gory pictures of samurai warriors committing suicide, including one in which a samurai killed himself while another warrior stood behind him with a sword. The assignment also included the fact that samurais were decapitated by their fellow warriors after committing suicide.

Grassel said that, although some of her classmates made jokes regarding the assignment, she was uncomfortable and believed that the assignment was inappropriate.

"I think it could trigger a lot of people," she told WXYZ. "You don’t know who in that class is dealing with depression."

“This is a really dangerous assignment for a group of kids in high school,” Amanda Arnold, Grassel's mother, added.

Arnold went to the high school on Oct. 12 and requested to speak to the principal, according to a statement by Maureen Altermatt, Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services at South Lyons Schools. Arnold was reportedly told that the principal was not available but that she should first speak to her daughter's classroom teacher about the issue.

Arnold, however, decided to speak to a school counselor instead and requested that her daughter be moved to a different class.

The counselor, however, reportedly explained that the samurai lesson was covered in all world history units at the school.

On Oct. 13, the day after the meeting, the counselor reportedly received an email indicating that the teen and her mother made the decision for Grassel to withdraw from the school and begin classes elsewhere. 

In her statement, Altermatt explained that the school had a specific protocol for addressing student concerns with class assignments. Students or their parents are supposed to speak with the classroom teacher first, before bringing their concerns to the building administrator. If the issue is still not resolved, matters are brought to the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction.

"In the past, South Lyon teachers have designed differentiated assignments to address unique student situations," Altermatt said in the statement. "Unfortunately, the decision was made to withdraw this student without following the process so there was no opportunity to provide an alternative assignment."

This is not the first time a world history assignment has sparked controversy. Earlier in October, a California mother wrote an enraged note on her son's seventh grade world history assignment on Islam, in which she accused the school of giving her child "bad teaching material," EAG News reported at the time.

Sources: WXYZ Detroit, EAG / Photo credit: WXYZ Detroit