On Friday, November 2, 2012, media outlets reported that Macomb County Judge John C. Foster dismissed the lawsuit filed two years ago against Warren Consolidated Schools saying the family of a former African-American student failed to prove evidence any discrimination occurred when excerpts from a book about slavery containing “outrageous statements” — including the N-word — were read aloud in her class.
On Monday, Circuit Judge John C. Foster granted the request the district had made for a summary disposition on this case. He dismissed the case, not only because the plaintiffs could present no evidence of discrimination, he continued to explain, that because the book supplemented the approved fifth grade curriculum and social studies textbooks, that the teacher’s reading of excerpts from the book did not violate the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. The judge also said he found no evidence that all students were not treated in the same manner by the teacher.
Jamey Petree, the father of a black student had filed a suit in November 2010 against the Warren Consolidated Schools on behalf of his daughter Jala Petree, claiming that she was racially harassed by a teacher’s reading aloud from a book about slavery. (A national award-winning book — “From Slave Ship to Freedom Road” by Julius Lester, published by Scholastic — dealing with slave ships and slavery as part of an American history unit. It also encourages class discussion).
The suit alleged that a fifth grade teacher at Black Elementary School in Sterling Heights read excerpts from Julius Lester’s “From Slave Ship to Freedom Road” that contained racial epithets and racist characterizations. They are seeking damages in excess of $50,000.
What I want to know is who was actually offended by this history lesson being read? The fifth grade girl or her father? What kind of message does this send to our children?
We all know that children take their cue from the ones they are the closest to. And we as parents need to choose our battles. Blaming the school system for teaching a part of history most of us would rather forget is probably not the battle we should choose.
Most of us learned about American History. It wasn’t always so pretty. We cannot rewrite history, the good, the bad or the ugly. The past history that our children are learning is the same history we learned and our parents learned.
This reading took place in school in a 5th grade history class, and our history books are based on facts. Are you saying your daughter was upset by this lesson? She must have been if she told you about it. Or did she come home reporting (or giggling, something many 5th graders would be doing) that the teacher was reading to the class today and she said the N-word? I’m sure that would not be too pleasing for any parent to hear, especially if you were not aware of what they were studying in History class. Did she speak to the teacher about it or try to do a little research on the internet? Did you?
We all only want the best for our children, but often we go about it the wrong way. Always keep in mind, they are watching, listening and learning directly from us. Our examples and reactions are the first and foremost education our kids receive. It helps shape who they will be as adults. We certainly don’t want to pass on our own burdens, whether they are past or present. How many of us grew up hearing “Do as I say, not as I do.”? We now know that is not the way it works. Stick with the other one, “Because I said so!”