REUTERS

KKK Assignment Asks Fifth Graders to Explain Justification of Racism

A fifth grade teacher in South Carolina has been placed on administrative leave after asking her students to provide a justification for the actions of the Ku Klux Klan.


Tremain Cooper, an uncle of one of the students who received the assignment, identified the teacher on Facebook as Kerri Roberts, who gave the assignment at Oak Pointe Elementary School. Cooper posted a picture of the assignment and said it brought his 10-year-old nephew to tears.

“HOW CAN SHE ASK A 5TH GRADER TO JUSTIFY THE ACTIONS OF THE KKK” Cooper wrote.

The original post appears to have been taken down. Below is a screengrab of the assignment:

The assignment also asks students to identify the KKK’s “Purpose and Motivation” and “Effects on Opportunities of African Americans.”

“I felt bad for my nephew because he was emotional,” Cooper said to NBC Charlotte. “He had become upset because he thought he may get in trouble because he wasn’t able to complete his assignment.”

He called the incident “heartbreaking” for his family but told NBC Charlotte that he hoped the Facebook post would “bring attention to the larger issue.”

“I believe the conversation needs to be elevated,” he explained to the outlet. “I want the conversation to be centered around including more Black male and female teachers in the classroom.”

Oak Pointe is a part of Lexington & Richland County School District Five. Katrina Goggins, a spokeswoman for the district, said in a statement to The New York Times, “South Carolina standards for fifth grade require lessons on Reconstruction and discriminatory groups, including the KKK. We must teach the standard, but we are taking steps to ensure this particular assignment will never be used again in District Five schools.”

Goggins confirmed to The Times that Roberts had been placed on leave but did not specify whether it was paid or not, the publication noted.

The South Carolina Department of Education website provides standards for students based on grade level and subject. Fifth grade social studies are asked to “demonstrate an understanding of Reconstruction and its impact on the United States.”

“Explain the purpose and motivations of subversive groups during Reconstruction and their rise to power after the withdrawal of federal troops from the South,” the guidelines state.

The outline also specifies what is and is not essential for students to know. For what is essential, the standards mandate:

“During the Reconstruction period several discriminatory groups developed in order to intimidate the freedmen. The most infamous of these was the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Originally the KKK was a social organization of ex-Confederate soldiers, but it soon grew into a terrorist group. The goal of the KKK was to use violence, intimidation, and voter fraud to keep African Americans from exercising their rights under the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments so that whites could regain control of state governments.”

It does not suggest students need to rationalize the actions of the KKK. In fact, the guidelines for what is not essential state:

“Students do not need to know details about the origins of the Klan and other groups such as the Knights of the White Camellia, or details about their methods of intimidation. Although students do not need to memorize a definition of terrorism, they should understand that terrorism is a term used to describe violence or other harmful acts committed or threatened against citizens by groups of persons for political or ideological goals.”

The Facebook post from a student’s uncle received nearly 300 comments and was shared over 500 times. It also generated mixed responses to the assignment. Some people agreed that it was inappropriate and called for Roberts’ termination:

“This is crazy she needs to be terminated”

“Teacher teaching hate this needs to be stopped”

“They are to (sic) young to be taught this”

“What in the world……”

“Fire her”

One commenter identified herself as a mother whose children used to attend Oak Pointe and said, “we had a race issue with this school before.”

One man suggested that the assignment was meant to foster critical thinking skills.

“Coming from a family who’s parents grew up in Charleston, SC during the Civil Rights movement they’ve (more so my father than my mother) always presented me with questions like these to prepare me for the world as a African American man living in America even in elementary school,” he wrote, in part.

Cooper, the student’s uncle who made the post, responded, “There has to be better ways than this assignment. This assignment didn’t accomplish that.”

Another man wrote, “Y’all are f*cking stupid. She’s trying to reach your kids how to get the bigger picture not justifying the actions of the kkk. She’s asking that if you were there, in that time, as a member of the kkk, what justifies your actions toward African Americans. And how regardless of the situation it was wrong.”

A user responded, “I’m just wondering .. what should some of the children’s responses be If you were that age what would your response be The issue is there is no justification for what that party did to African Americans so what could these kids possibly come up with Do you feel like it the teacher is saying there is some form of justification to their actions #healthydiscussionplease.”

Irmo, S.C., where Oak Pointe is located, is located just outside of Columbia. Its population is about 64 percent white, 27.5 percent Black, 5.5 percent Latino, 1.8 percent two or more races, 1.6 percent Asian, and less than one percent American Indian as well as Native Hawaiian.

Roberts is not the first teacher to be penalized for a racial school assignment. Earlier this year a Florida teacher was fired after giving her middle school students an assignment asking how they would feel around certain racial, religious and other groups of people.

Questions ask students to rate 1 to 4 how comfortable they are in certain situations, with 1 being “Not Comfortable at All” and 4 being “Completely Comfortable.”

Scenarios listed include:

A group of young Black men are walking toward you on the street.

A fellow RA is paraplegic.

Your new suitemates are Mexican.

Your women studies instructor is a Muslim woman who wears a headscarf and full length robe.

The young man sitting next to you on the airplane is Arab.

A friend invites you to go to a gay bar.

A homeless man approaches you and asks for change.

Your family buys a home in a predominantly Black neighborhood.

Read more news @ DiversityInc.com

Latest News

women in politics

Women Remain Vastly Underrepresented in Local Government, Despite Conventional Wisdom Suggesting Otherwise

Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sat behind President Biden during his first speech to a joint session of Congress on April 28 — representing the first time two women held such important and high-ranking political offices. Even after such a historic moment, the reality…

voter restriction

Florida Follows Georgia’s Lead, Approves Racist Anti-Voter Restrictions Aimed Primarily at Democrats and People of Color

Not content with letting Georgia be the only state in the South demonized for its bigoted and racist attacks on voter rights, Florida has jumped into the fray in issuing its own series of new and highly controversial “Jim Crow-esque” anti-voting restrictions aimed specifically at disenfranchising Democrats and voters of…

Kentucky Derby

Inspired by Protests Over Breonna Taylor’s Death, Humana and Kentucky Derby Festival Launch Diversity and Inclusion Initiative in Louisville

Ahead of the 147th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1, Kentucky Derby officials and Humana (No. 25 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020) have announced a new equity initiative meant to make the race more accessible and welcoming to everyone, regardless of race, gender, age…

crimes against human ity

‘Crime Against Humanity’; Global Report Says the US Should Be Prosecuted in International Criminal Court for Ongoing Police Murders of Black Americans

In what has been described as a “devastating” report, human rights experts and lawyers have investigated and released a 188-page analysis of the ongoing police brutality and killing of Black Americans in the U.S. Their verdict: the country is guilty of “crimes against humanity” and should be prosecuted for its…

Tokyo, Olympics

Tokyo Olympics to Encourage Significant Increase in Gender Equality Among Event’s Corporate Sponsors

Besides simply being a showcase for some of the most talented and athletic men and women on the planet, the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are hoping their event this summer can also help promote significant change in corporate culture, both in Japan and around the globe. Bloomberg’s Ayai Tomisawa…

AbbVie Joins Over 400 Leading US Employers in the Human Rights Campaign’s ‘Business Coalition for the Equality Act’

Originally published on LinkedIn. AbbVie ranked No. 19 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.   AbbVie has joined a group of over 400 corporations and leading U.S. employers to support the Human Rights Campaign’s “Business Coalition for the Equality Act,” an initiative advocating for federal…

Accenture and Goodwill Develop Virtual Experience To Help People Impacted by the Criminal Justice System Enter the Workforce

Originally published at prnewswire.com. Accenture is ranked No. 5 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.   Goodwill Industries International has teamed with Accenture to develop an innovative virtual experience called Project Overcome. The experience is designed for people impacted by the criminal justice system who want to…