A cartoon depiction of a police officer which tacitly compared him to a member of the Ku Klux Klan and slave owners was distributed as part of an assignment given by 8th grade social studies teachers in Wylie ISD, a school district primarily in Collin County northeast of Dallas.
The school district removed the assignment today.
The graphic came to the attention of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), who then sent a letter to the school district explaining its concerns, asking for an apology, and for the assignment to be pulled.
“We are willing to sit down with anyone and have a fact-based conversation about our profession, but divisiveness like your teachers showed does nothing to move that conversation forward.”
The Texan article continued:
[Ian Halperin, Executive Director of Communications and Community Relations for Wylie ISD,] clarified that the district had initially offered an alternative to those families who didn’t want to complete the assignment, but it later pulled the assignment completely.
He added that the original nature of the assignment was “to allow our students to examine the Bill of Rights and to determine if the rights detailed in the document are still as important or impactful today. The teachers wanted to provide the students with current events to analyze the Bill of Rights.”
Other local media are also covering the story.
“In hindsight, we say that they could have picked a more balanced approach,” Halperin said. “Editorial cartoons have a place in education, but try to present a more balanced approach as an educator.”
Halperin said the district has taken no disciplinary action as the situation is still under review, but officials have met with staff to provide them with better ways to present material under the district’s guidelines.
Wylie resident Amber Jennings said teachers shouldn’t be putting this material out, especially not to 13- or 14-year-old students.
“Don’t indoctrinate our children to think this way,” Jennings said.
Although the incident happened in her school district, Jennings doesn’t blame Wylie ISD. She instead blames the teacher who gave the assignment. Instead of giving this assignment, the teacher should’ve focused on everyday life skills, she said.
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.
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.
Angry parents alerted the district and police unions.
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.’
[Eric Willadsen, president of Richardson’s chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police,] says the damage is done.
“You can’t unsee something once it’s been there, once it’s been presented.”