Wylie Independent School District is taking down a controversial assignment given to middle school students after angry parents and police unions confronted the district.
“We’re going to learn from this and move forward,” Ian Halperin, spokesperson for Wylie I.S.D., stated,
About 400 eighth graders received an assignment this week by social studies teachers while learning about the Bill of Rights.
They were asked to recreate political cartoons depicting current events, including the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
A cartoon by David Fitzsimmons shows Floyd replaced by other Black men, dying at the hands of other individuals including a slave trader, a KKK member and a law enforcement officer.
“The material that was used in this particular incident was not material that was approved as part of our curriculum,” Halperin said. “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.”
Speaking to NBC 5, Halperin said that the assignment was only given 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.
Outraged parents told the district and police unions about the cartoon.
Eric Willadsen, president of Richardson’s chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, said: “We’re disgusted with what happened in Minneapolis, but it seems as if this is portraying continuing this false negative. 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 wrote a scathing letter to Wylie leaders. It read 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 then talks about the possible impact of the assignment on law enforcement’s efforts to build a relationship with the community, saying: “..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 that students who do not want to complete the assignment were allowed to receive an alternative assignment.
Later, the district said that the assignment was removed altogether.
Willadsen maintained that the damage was already 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,” Halperin stated. “That’s all we can do. We’re going to learn from this and we’re going to keep moving forward.”
The district has apologized to parents, and has sent a letter telling them that the assignment is being removed and that no grade will be taken.
Halperin stated that the district is in touch with the police unions: “We are trying to work with them because we truly do value our police partners.”