“Unapproved curriculum” surrounding racial inequality prompts Knox County Schools teacher investigation

Complaints from parents led to an investigation of an art teacher from Sterchi Elementary who taught a lesson to 4th and 5th graders on racial inequality.
Published: Apr. 29, 2021 at 10:18 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 30, 2021 at 3:56 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Complaints from parents led to an investigation of an art teacher from Sterchi Elementary School, in Knoxville, Tennessee, who taught a lesson to 4th and 5th graders on racial inequality.

In a statement to WVLT, Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas said, “We are aware of the situation. This book is not approved for use in our curriculum and I have asked our Human Resources Department to investigate the matter.”

The fictitious book in question is called “Something Happened in Our Town.” It talks about a Black man who was killed by police and how parents can talk to their kids about his death, racism, and race inequality.

WVLT spoke with one parent with two children at Sterchi Elementary School who wants to remain anonymous. She says her 5th-grade son told her about the lesson on Monday. This parent says the book was narrated in a video to her son’s class. She says it was inappropriate and parents should be told in advance and they should be able to decide if their students should be in a class that day.

“It was very misleading. A lot of misinformation in that and to be teaching 10 and 11-year-old children were just really a huge red flag for us as parents. We felt like things were, you know, stereotypes and generalizations about people. And just all over, you know, all around blanket statements,” said the parent.

There is a line in the book which reads “Cops stick up for each other. They don’t like Black men.” This line particularly troubled her daughter because her uncle is a police officer.

“She just kept saying that, you know, Uncle So-and-so is one of the nicest people she knows. And so we had to reiterate to her that yes, you know, there are a lot of nice cops out there, you know, and a lot of nice, everybody out there, and there’s bad everybody out there,” said the parent.

The parent showed emails where she reported her concern to the school’s principal and asked if the material was approved. She received an email back saying it was not approved.

“She did call me and we had a discussion over the phone, where she did explain that that was material that was not approved by her at all… she wasn’t aware that the video was being shown. So she apologized for that and said that she had given it to her superiors to follow up through,” said the parent.

In an email, Elementary School Supervisor Adam Parker indicated there was a plan to retrain teachers on sensitive material.

This parent is not calling for the art teacher to get fired, but hoping for more oversight of what children are taught in school.

“She should be able to teach art. But when you bring in, you know, your own political views or political ideologies, that, you know, I definitely think that’s a no, no,” said the parent.

Copyright 2021 WVLT. All rights reserved.